POEM: Neighboring Accountability

Neighboring Accountability

Several homes
Down
There is
A child molester
You can’t no
For sure
Buddies sow nice
Too those knew
Kids on the block
How could you
Warn up to him
Surly there are other neighbors
Axing the question
What shitty do
Especially iffing correct
The prize to be paid
From phallus testimony
And illicit probes
In the end
Assessing what is
Dear
In the light
Of what is
Dumb
Struck
Buy that veritable truth
It is awe
In the risk
And neighboring accountability

This poem is about the all-too-common tragic trauma that child sexual abuse wreaks on its victims, their families and the community. More specifically, this poem deals with the responsibility that we have toward one another, especially children as potential victims. Child molestation and sexual assault is perpetuated by silence. Perpetrators can only continue their crimes if targets or victims are silenced by threat or shame. Such silencing also depends on adults in a child’s community turning the other way when suspicions are raised. Also, a child’s community may not be supportive enough for the child to feel that they will be believed or feel safe in saying anything. This poem arose from a conversation with someone who found great difficulty in potentially wrongly accusing someone of something very serious. My perspective is that this is precisely why we need to deal decisively with any suspected child endangerment, because it is so serious. Such hesitation, which in my view quite reliably chooses doing too little, strikes me as far more dangerous than being a little too ardent in protecting children. Plus, in larger terms, perpetrators are typically also victims who end up perpetuating a cycle of abuse. Perpetrators also need a community that can hold them accountable and offer real help to them, not just enabling. May we act vigilantly to build supportive communities that are committed to protect children and provide compassionate care and healing for all victims.

POEM: God’s Lazy As

God’s Lazy As

Thanks for nudging me
From oblivion
In too existence
A billion years
Of Sundays
Ought too due
Accept fore sustaining me
Every nanosecond
What have you
Done form me
Lately

I find a deep source of gratitude in that I won the existence lottery. Whatever complaints I may have about the nature of reality and my life seem petty when compared to the exquisite privilege of simply being alive. When I experience this perspective, I can tap into an unfathomably huge realm that I often take for granted — or, if you think that life is just complicated dirt: taken for granite. When I add to this perspective the notion that my sustained existence is also inexplicably miraculous, I can update my gratitude to the current moment, any given moment, any moment taken.

To love another person is to see the face of God. Victor Hugo, Les Miserables quoteThe title of this poem, God’s Lazy As, is a tip of the hat to the low-key role that God plays in awe of this. If this mystery of God seeming to hide out appears too baffling, or even insolvable, I find it helpful to consider the Victor Hugo quote from Les Miserables, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” This is the kind of in-your-face God that I love.

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 October 26, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County, Ohio, and U.S smash COVID-19 records — get the latest (2:02); persons infectious with COVID-19 up to 10 days if only mild symptoms, or up to 20 days if severely ill (16:47); CDC expands definition of close contact after spread from “multiple brief encounters” (17:32); COVID-19’s wintry mix — as we move indoors, dry air will help coronavirus spread (19:24); “at a breaking point” — new surge of COVID-19 cases has states and hospitals scrambling, yet again (25:48); amid pandemic, U.S. has seen 300,000 “excess deaths,” with greatest disparities for people of color and persons age 25-44 (34:19); FDA show signs of cold feet over emergency use authorization of COVID-19 vaccines (37:52); remdesivir’s hefty price tag ignores NIH investment in its creation (45:17); Trump’s antibody “cure” will be in short supply (49:31).

Week of October 19, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County and Ohio COVID-19 update, as nation’s cases surge (2:01); surge in COVID-19 cases mean fewer Minnesota schools meet in-person rules, while exposing hostility to public health efforts (11:48); “overwhelmed” — hospitals across America engulfed by rebounding virus (13;48); hepatitis is still a silent killer in Africa and elsewhere b(18:32); how the CDC and others are failing black women during childbirth (21:48); black maternal death rates and the implicit biases — how we can address them (31:20); what no one tells black women about breastfeeding (35:25); new research shows many children with mental health conditions don’t get follow-up care (41:15); how drugs damage the environment (44:07).

Week of October 12, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County and Ohio COVID-19 update, as Midwest hit hard (2:00); Midwest keeps reopening as states reel from new virus cases (7:26); COVID-19 surges in North Dakota, filling hospitals and testing attitudes (14:17); Mississippi’s governor revokes statewide mask mandate (19:16); Trump is “single largest driver” of COVID-19 misinformation, Cornell study finds (22:42); the confidentiality of Trump’s medical information has limits (23:29); the lesson from Trump catching COVID-19 — with this virus, there’s no magic bullets (25:27); “COVID is all about privilege” — Trump’s treatment underscores vast inequalities in access to care (31:12); inequality “surrounds you” — a black doctor returns to heard-hit Louisiana after treating and contracting COVID-19 in New York (39:35); battered, flooded and submerged — many Superfund sites are dangerously threatened by climate change (51:43); doctors offer guide for teaching the health effects of climate change in medical residency (55:50).

Week of October 5, 2020:

Featuring: “Donald Trump Memorial Studio” and the public health principle of nonjudgment (1:58); Lucas County and Ohio COVID-19 update (4:56); states loosening COVID-19 restrictions amid ongoing pandemic and expected fall surge (10:55); these coronavirus vaccine trials don’t answer the one question we need to know — will it protect against the most serious disease? (16:56); why it will take more than one vaccines to beat COVID-19 (21:37); keeping coronavirus vaccines at subzero temperatures during distribution will be hard, but likely key to ending pandemic (26;34); lessons from STDs on how to fight COVID-129 (33:27); why misinformation about COVID-19 keeps going viral (45:18); global rates of unplanned pregnancies still too high (48:06); the FDA approved the abortion pill 20 years ago — it’s time to make it available via telehealth (51:28).

Week of September 28, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County and Ohio COVID-19 update (2:06); three experts reflecting on the U.S. reaching 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths (5:20); new wave of COVID-19 cases builds in U.S. (8;43); four U.S. states report record one-day increases in COVID-19 cases (11:01); Florida to life all COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and bars (11:55); Des Moines says no to governor’s demand for classroom return (12:42); government watchdog finds supply shortages are still harming U.S. coronavirus response (17:02); battle rages inside hospitals over how COVID-19 strikes and kills (17:38); massive genetic study shows coronavirus mutating and potentially evolving more infectious amid rapid U.S. spread (20:45); California’s deadliest spring in 20 years suggests COVID-19 undercount and massive disparities among racial/ethnic minorities (24:07); Africa has defied the COVID-19 nightmare scenarios — we shouldn’t be surprised (28:40); COVID-19 could reverse decades of progress toward elimination preventable child deaths (32:42); potent drug supply drop, not domestic drug policies, likely behind 2018 overdose death downturn — and underlying epidemic trend continues (38:37); a reversal in blood pressure control for Americans (42:37); more than 3 billion people protected from harmful trans fat in their food (45:22); “front of package” nutrition labels improve nutrition quality (48:59).

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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INAUGURAL Public Health Radio Show on WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo — Just For The Health of It: Medicare For All and Toledo Democracy Day

After years in the waiting and making, I am proud to announce the inaugural show of my public health radio show, Just for the Health of It,  on WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo (ToledoRadio.org). Just for the Health of It brings you new 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. 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.

You can listen here for this show about Medicare For All and coverage of Toledo’s Democracy Day.  You can listen to the most recent and all previous shows at the archive for Just for the Health of It public health radio show.

Here is the script for the show for the week of March 18, 1019:

Welcome to the inaugural show of Just for the Health of It. Normally, the planned format for this show is to do a public health news and research roundup, provide useful health information for you and your loved ones, and interview a local guest to speak to critical public health issues in Toledo. The eventual format will be an hour long; but, until we get the regular studio up and running, I will be doing a shorter half hour version without the interview portion – broadcasting from an undisclosed location which is eerily similar to my den.
Today, we have special coverage of the 3rd annual Toledo Democracy Day public hearings.
If you are wondering what public health has to do with democracy, stay tuned!
Democracy Day was established through citizen’s initiative and approved by Toledo voters in 2016. It functions as an annual public hearing on the influence of money on our politicians that the Mayor and city council must attend. All members of the public are encouraged to come and share their thoughts on the importance of democracy and the corrupting influence of large donors on the political process.

By law, after each Democracy Day, the Mayor must send a letter to our Congressional representatives urging them to support a Constitutional amendment that says corporations are not people and political donations are not free speech. Enacting such a Constitutional amendment is the primary purpose of Move to Amend – a national organization with chapters all across the United States. For more information, you can check out movetoamend.org

So, went to City Council chambers,  or, as I like to say, where democracy goes to die.  And, among other wonderful testimony, several citizens spoke to the need for a universal health program. This included myself. Or, at least I thought. I spent many hours in order to prepare 8 minutes of testimony, ending with a call for the passage of the Medicare For All Act of 2019. However, when I got to the public hearing, I found out that they were limiting testimony to 3 minutes. In previous years they asked citizens to keep their testimony to about 5 minutes, and they loosely enforced this time-frame. There was no way for me to cut my testimony in half on the spot, so I expressed my frustration about not being allowed to present my full testimony. I read most of the last paragraph, with my call to action. To further express my deep disappointment with their bass ackward and absurd limits when required by law to listen to citizens’ testimony on substantive issues, I used the remaining minute of my time to read the last paragraph of my testimony backwards. Sometimes the only commensurate response to absurdity is absurdity. And sometimes Toledo just seems like a backwards town. As it happens, they ended a half hour ahead of time. Having ended with plenty of time remaining, I asked to present my full testimony. I was refused.
I must admit, I felt a little bit of democracy die within me. But, I will just add it to my heap of progressive disillusionment…and if you are going to be disillusioned, please make it progressive.

The good news is that democracy need not be limited to the wood-paneled coffin of democracy we call City Council chambers, or limited to the marble lobbies of Government Center. There are other venues, and this is one of them.

So, I will present my full testimony here today.

Though, make sure to stay tuned to the whole show, as at the end of the show, I will bestow the first Just for the Health of It award, in honor of Toledo’s Democracy Day.
But back to my testimony: here goes:

Toledo’s Democracy Day is rooted in the reality that, in America, corporate personhood often trumps human personhood, and that profit is routinely treated as more important than human need or human rights. This battle courses through American life and our body politic. However, there is perhaps no other facet of American life where this battle is so palpable and endemic as health care. As the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. diagnosed, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Hi, my name is Dan Rutt. I have a master’s degree in public health. I am the former health planner for the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department. I am a past president of the Ohio Public Health Association. However, perhaps my most important qualification for speaking today about health care is similar to most of the people in this room: I have witnessed personally multiple health care horror stories. Is there anyone in America that doesn’t have a health care horror story? I’ve passed out in the so-called “emergency room” waiting for medical triage, slipping into anaphylactic shock – though they did have plenty of time to take my billing information. Three times I’ve gone to the same “emergency” room for severe reactions to bee stings; each time, I’ve been left alone, untreated and unsupervised – once in the waiting room, once in an exam room, once on a gurney in the hallway. To protect the guilty, I won’t divulge the name – Saint something or other . . . probably “other.” The last time I was in there, I had used my expired “Epi-pen” after refusing to re-fill my prescription after they jacked the price up to $600. I told the nurse that if I die, I want them to throw my dead body on the lawn of Mylan Pharmaceutical’s corporate headquarters. I could go on; and I have, despite shocking and inhumane so-called “health care.” I’ve been blessed with a pretty healthy life, but I have a long litany of health care horror stories. I’ll leave for another time the cautionary tale about getting a vasectomy from the lowest bidder when I had no health insurance.

Today, about 30 million people in America still have no health insurance whatsoever. For Toledo, that’s thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Toledoans. About 45,000 Americans will die this year due to being uninsured. Some might even dare call it a national emergency. If you might consider that designation a close call, consider that even having “health insurance” in the U.S. is no guarantee of being able to pay for needed care. An additional 85 million Americans are “underinsured,” meaning that out-of-pocket costs of co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance puts them at risk for financial catastrophe if they seek care. In short, more than one in three Americans have precarious protection against health crises, all topped off with looming financial ruin when they are at their most vulnerable.

Health care is the leading cause of financial terrorism, the number one cause of personal bankruptcy, and the leading candidate for our nation’s moral bankruptcy. We kowtow to health care syndicates as they hold unparalleled control over our community’s finances and even our very lives. We are held hostage, and in a Kafkaesque fatal twist, we are expected to accept as normal community-wide Stockholm Syndrome, an irrational sympathy for our captors. Unfortunately, we don’t get the benefit of the universal health care of those residing in Stockholm.

Health care in the U.S. is about $11,000 per capita, about twice as expensive per person as health care in other industrialized countries. Health care consumes about 18 of every 100 dollars spent in America. This might be worth it if we were healthier; instead we are sicker, and more likely to die. We chronically drag along the bottom of health outcomes among industrialized countries. If the business of health care is quality care at a reasonable cost, then American health care qualifies as a gargantuan business scam, sucking something on the order of two trillion dollars of value out of our economy – that’s 2,000 billions of dollars, year after year; that’s billions of value sucked out of Toledoans, year after year after year. Would it be undemocratic to demand a better deal? Is the business of American health care a gigantic cash toilet too big to succeed at delivering quality health care at a reasonable cost? I hope not.

We live in the wealthiest nation in human history and we do a frighteningly poor job of producing health. Tragically, this is at an even more dumbfounding financial and human cost. I dare you to find a nation where they get less for their health care dollar than America. If we have any notion of running health care as a reputable business, then we should start firing the heads of those businesses, not rewarding them with huge profits and deferential prestige. If nothing else, at the prices we are paying, we shouldn’t have to fear sending our parents, grandparents, kids or neighbors, into a system that wreaks unnecessary stress when they are most vulnerable.

Further, if you think that America’s health care system is high quality, consider this: health care kills more people than lack of health insurance. So-called “medical errors” kill about 250,000 Americans every year. Medical errors can be considered the third leading cause of death in America, exceeded only by heart disease as number one and cancer as number two.

Our addiction to health care as a product to be marketed and sold rather than as a human right, has locked us into a system of perverse incentives that distort the meeting of human need due to corporate greed. This has produced the worst of both worlds: overutilization of expensive and ineffective health care, and underutilization of cost effective care. This is all topped off with unparalleled administrative costs and corporate profits.

There is a way out. A couple of weeks ago, U.S. Representatives Jayapal, Dingell, and over 100 co-sponsors introduced the Medicare For All Act of 2019. This Act will improve and expand the overwhelmingly successful and popular Medicare program, so that every person living in the United States has guaranteed access to healthcare with comprehensive benefits. Services covered include primary care, emergency care, mental health coverage, addiction treatment services, prescription drug coverage, medical devices, even dental and vision. With one standard of care covering essential services, no American need gamble their health with substandard insurance to eke out financial viability. This legislation embodies true community, where everybody is in; nobody is out. We need not leave anyone behind. Money saved with administrative streamlining will cover expanded care for over 100 million Americans with no insurance or substandard insurance. This Medicare For All Act will integrate the multitude of health care payment systems and simplify the current labyrinth of administrative requirements for both providers and patients. This will allow for a quantum leap in realigning financial stewardship with patient outcomes rather than mere profitability.

Fortunately, the leap is not that far. About 75% of health care in America is already paid for by taxes, primarily for Medicare, which, serving an elderly population, has the bulk of our nation’s health care costs, and secondarily through Medicaid and military/veteran’s health care. Most simply, expanding Medicare for all will transfer the remaining 25% of private insurance funded health care into the existing Medicare payroll tax. Premiums paid by individuals and businesses will disappear. The generations-long experiment with for-profit health care has failed. We can profit from the generations-long successes of other nations in assuring the health of their people.

The time is now. I call upon Toledo City Council, the Lucas County Commissioners, each of our local health care conglomerates, and any other interested parties, to join together in efforts to pass the Medicare For All Act of 2019 or similar legislation. I ask that each party provide the staff and resources necessary for such a collaboration to assure the urgent passage of such a national health program. To this end, I ask that ProMedica and Mercy Health devote one-thousandth of their revenue for such a bold and transformative venture. My testimony today will be featured on my inaugural public health radio show on WAKT, 106.1 FM, Toledo’s activist, noncommercial community radio station, the latest in Toledo’s burgeoning democracy. I will be monitoring and reporting on your efforts. May our community lead the way for a shared health care system that will benefit every community across our nation. If not us, who? If not now, when? Thank you.

There, now that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Now, Just for the Health It is about offering fresh perspectives, and I’d like to highlight three fresh perspectives today:

#1: Health care kills more people than having no health insurance – 250,000 deaths versus 45,000 deaths. As I like to say: a hospital is no place for a sick person. Now, of course, health care saves lots of lives as well. Still, health care is an often dangerous undertaking for our lives and an overtaking for our money. Prevention not only saves us from disease, prevention saves us from health care.

The good news is that while health care’s medical errors can be considered a cause of death exceeded only by heart disease and cancer, if we look at other underlying causes of death, we find there are lifestyle factors that are more important in preserving and promoting our health. For instance, smoking kills about 600,000 Americans each year; and diet kills even more Americans prematurely than smoking. Lifestyle factors such as these are more in our control, and much less pricey, than health care. Other key lifestyle factors include physical activity and adequate sleep. Good news for all.

[non-commercial]

And now for a word from our lack of sponsors…

PR Medica and Merciless Health are rated in the top 100 in clinical excellence in some category that hopefully covers the health care you might be able to access. Warning: such excellence may be severely limited by being delivered in the least effective and most expensive sick care system among the so-called advanced economies. While you may be privileged enough, or lucky enough, to get access to excellent care, your community overall is poorly served. Any such clinical excellence is best taken with a double dose of advocacy for universal health care.

This program is not sponsored by PR Medica or Merciless Health. PR Medica and Merciless Health are unholy owned subsidiaries of Tourette’s Industries, insuring that you will swear by them, whether you like it or not.

Now, back to your irregular programming…

Welcome back to Just for the Health of It, the people’s school of public health, where the people’s health is not academic. You are listening to WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo, your source for local, anti-commercial, activist radio.

The second fresh perspective I’d like to highlight today is regarding ideological battles over socialism and capitalism. Health care is not your typical product or service which might be conducive to efficiencies of market competition. Just finding out what health care costs is nearly impossible. In many cases, often the most expensive cases, health care cannot be planned for, even if we wanted to. Only the richest people can afford to pay for all of their health care out-of-pocket. The need to rely on health insurance because of the great variability and unpredictability of health care needs insulates us from the item by item expenses of health care. Plus, the complexity and technical nature of health care is so great that we typically must rely heavily on expert opinions of doctors. Health care is so expensive to deliver, and adding new services in the marketplace is so costly, that rather than lowering cost through competition, we often end up with duplicative services beyond the capacity needed, the total system costs rise, and prices ultimately rise more. Outside of large metropolitan areas, it’s hard to provide all the health care facilities and services that people need, let alone two to choose from. Everyone needs health care. Cut-rate health care is inhumane. Decent health care for all is something that we really need to work out collectively. Health care might better be viewed in the same way that we regulate public utilities. Public utilities are a fine example of socialism. Imagine two water lines coming into your home, so you would have a choice of which service to use. Double the infrastructure, double the costs – the height of inefficiency. Imagine two sets of roads to compete, two separate trash services…you get the picture. Well, this is modern American health care – except that there is so much more money involved that many more careers and fortunes are made in gaming the system, jacking up costs. In such cases, capitalism is costly to all but a very few. Lastly, ideological battles over socialism and capitalism often revolve around the trope of taxes. Some people feel better about getting the bill from some corporation than the government. We pay twice as much for health care than in countries where health care is treated as a public good, and regulated akin to a public utility. At about 18% of our economy, that’s about 9% of our economy wasted on health care inefficiency and duplication. In essence, it’s like already having a 9% tax on everything, except we are getting nothing for it – actually less than nothing, our health outcomes are worse. This sounds eerily similar to the nightmare that tax hawks fear, with insinuations of government inefficiency – except that it is brought to us by health care capitalism. Health care capitalism is wreaking havoc on our economy and our people. Whatever difficulties a more socialist approach may bring, it is difficult to imagine making our current state of affairs in health care worse than having profit drive health care decisions.

For the third fresh perspective I’d like to highlight today, I’m going to switch it up a bit. I’m talking about the direct link between health and democracy. Why should public health and health care advocates talk about democracy?  The clearest reason is that dead people don’t vote – well, except perhaps in Chicago. The reality is that inequalities in premature death directly affect elections. For example, the excess deaths that Blacks suffer over Whites results in over a million missing Black votes nationwide. If you include excess deaths of other people of color and poor whites, this results in millions more missing voters. Clearly this skews election results in favor of wealthier, healthier and whiter populations, reinforcing existing inequalities. This dynamic reinforces health and wealth gaps across generations. For instance, Whites can expect to draw on social security about 44% longer than Blacks, simply by Blacks dying off prematurely. Blacks contribute social security over the span of their whole working lives, but the grim reaper cuts short their reaping a full span of benefits. While I love a good metaphor as much as the next person, we must realize that for tens of millions of Americans, democracy and justice means literally fighting for their lives. Health justice is directly tied to a healthy democracy that truly represents all of its people.

Now that we’ve established the direct connection between public health and democracy, I offer a bonus testimony from the first Toledo Democracy Day, my testimony in response to a 5 minute limit on citizen testimony, entitled “Five minutes of Democracy.”

Here it goes, Just for the Health of It:

[See TESTIMONY -“Five minutes of Democracy”]

And now…what you’ve all been waiting for, a WAKT first, the Just for the Health of It, 2019 Toledo Democracy Day award:

By the powers infested by me, I do hereby confer upon Toledo City Councilperson Nick Komives, the 2019 Toledo Democracy Day award for the MOST CONSTIPATED View of DEMOCRACY. After being confronted with over three hours of democracy during the 2018 Democracy Day, Mr. Komives, with heroic efficiency, scheduled only two hours for the 2019 Democracy Day, and ingeniously combining this with a three-minute limit on public testimony, succeeded in City Council only having to listen to 90 minutes of citizen testimony, thus, empowering Toledo citizens to truly declare: “Democracy Day, now with 50% less democracy.” Should Mr. Komives, in all humility, consider that he doesn’t deserve this award, then may he share this with all others who have made democracy in Toledo passable. In any case, may Mr. Komives find within him the moral fiber to relieve himself of this distinction.

WAKT Just for the Health of It 2019 Toledo Democracy Day Award to City Toledo Councilperson Nick Komives for MOST CONSTIPATE View of DEMOCRACY

I will deliver a signed, framed copy of this award to Mr. Komives.

Lastly, in regards to Toledo City Councilperson Nick Komives’ expert shepherding of our citizenry, on behalf of all us sheep scattered across Toledo, I just want to say, “Baaaad democracy, Baaaad democracy.”

If you have feedback or ideas for this show, please feel free to email me at: WAKT@TopPun.com

You can listen to Just for the Health of It on WAKT 106.1 FM Toledo or online at ToledoRadio.org.

You can listen to this show here.

You can listen to the most recent and all previous shows at the archive for Just for the Health of It public health radio show.

Medicare For ALL POLITICAL BUTTONgot health insurance? POLITICAL BUTTONBleeding Heart Liberal - Help - I Need Universal Health Care-FUNNY PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTON BUTTON--Public Health-BHLH

Will Gladly Pay Taxes For Public Health POLITICAL BUTTONUniversal Health Care NOW POLITICAL BUTTONHealth Care is a Right Not a Privilege-PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTON

Public Health is Everybody's Business-PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTONOur Health Care System is Neither Healthy Caring Nor a System - PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTONUniversal Single-Payer Health Care POLITICAL BUTTON

Single-Payer Health Care - Everybody In, Nobody Out POLITICAL BUTTONPublic Health Works for You - PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTONWill Work For Universal Health Care POLITICAL BUTTON

Testimony for National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service — END DRAFT REGISTRATION

I prepared the below testimony to present at a public meeting in Chicago before the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, a commission created by Congress to deal with questions of draft registration, most specifically, whether to end draft registration or expand it to women. The Commission designed the format for this meeting with severely restricted opportunities for general public input. I intend to submit this testimony in written form, but I do not anticipate that I will be able to present it in person. At the end of this testimony is a much shorter statement that I intend to present to the media in Chicago, and directly to the Commission, if possible.

FULL TESTIMONY

My name is Dan Rutt. I have traveled from Toledo, Ohio, to be here today. I have come from 250 miles away to testify to you about service. I am volunteering my time to testify about that which is involuntary: conscience. I have come much further than 250 miles to be here today…

My testimony is rooted in family history predating the existence of the United States of America.  I am 12th generation in this land now known as the United States of America. In the early 1700’s, my ancestors settled on land given to them by William Penn, on what would come to be known as Pennsylvania. My Mennonite ancestors fled Germany to escape conscription and war.

With that wave of German immigrants and refugees, those that occupied the land had much fear about them ruining life as they new it. Newly-arrived German males age 16 and older were forced to take a loyalty oath to the British crown. The English oath was administered roughshod over the newly arriving boys and men, most of whom spoke only German upon their arrival. Apparently, a nominal and blind oath provided some comfort to those fearful residents already occupying the land.

As the Philadelphia harbor bells rang, signaling new arrivals, people gathered to greet them. Many gathered to welcome family or provide strangers with much needed assistance, knowing what it is like to leave one’s home and arrive in a strange land with little or nothing. Others gathered to enlist indentured servants. Here is my most important question regarding service. Serving freely or serving under coercion — which is the greater service? I submit that serving freely is greater. In this particular case, the free service of hospitality and welcoming outsiders is greater than enlisting indentured servants. In the shared scripture of The People of The Book — Jews, Christians and Muslims — a similar exhortation is repeated multiple times: “You must love foreigners because you were foreigners in Egypt.” This service of what may be considered radical hospitality is a time-honored practice of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The humble practice is at the heart of every great faith worldwide. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love because you were first loved. My ancestors, yearning to be free, wanted neither to be the cause of war as soldiers nor the tragic effects of war in its wanton destruction. This was at the heart of my ancestors’ journeys in life. This is my heritage.

More recently, in relation to war and peace, my great-grandfather, during World War II, ran an alternative service camp for conscientious objectors. As for me, I was literally born into service. I was born in 1961 in Haiti, while my parents were serving as medical missionaries, a doctor and nurse, with Mennonite Central Committee. Mennonite Central Committee has long encouraged and empowered years-long terms of service, often overseas. For my Dad, this was also as an alternative service to military service.

In 1979, the year I graduated from high school, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. In response to this, President Jimmy Carter instituted draft registration of young men my age, ostensibly to send a message of military preparedness to Soviet leaders. I was in the first batch of young men required by U.S. law to register for the draft. However, the prospect of draft registration conflicted with a higher law, my conscience and ultimate commitments. I could not and cannot, in good conscience, participate in war-making. As the clarity of my conscience emerged, I could find no way to register for the military draft, whose sole purpose is preparedness for war. My conscience also dictated that if I was to disobey an unconscionable law, then I was to openly take full responsibly for my actions while I worked to change such a law. I began by writing letters to Selective Service and my elected representatives. I may not have had been well-schooled — yet, anyways — on the politics of waging war or peace, but I was intimately familiar with my conscience and the legal duty that my young male peers and I faced. I was a teenager facing obedience to my conscience. This obedience came at the legal threat of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

I quickly learned that my war resistance is not dependent on geopolitical circumstances, political pendulums, or legal threats. I am already opposed to the next war. Unlike in the pragmatism of war, my enemy’s enemy is not my friend. For me, war is the enemy. Nonetheless, the nearly 40 years since my initial confrontation with draft registration affords me a certain perspective as I have lived through a full cycle of history.  While I was a skinny teenager facing taking on the United States government, the U.S. government was backing the soon-enough-to-be-notorious Osama bin Laden as a so-called “freedom fighter,” leading the mujahadeen in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation.  Of course, our support of Osama bin Laden, our enemy’s enemy, turned out to be a deadly lessen in the futility of weaponizing violent radicals in the vain hope that it won’t blowback in further violence on virtually all fronts. Today’s “freedom fighter” is tomorrow’s terrorist. Today’s war seeds tomorrow’s terrorist. Gandhi spoke frequently of the seamless connection of means and ends. War IS terrorism. How can we expect it to produce anything else — with it many “means” and “ends”? In the end, I cannot view warmaking as service to this country, or any country for that madder, certainly not to humanity as a hole. I find warmaking incompatible with Jesus’ call to love our enemies and to be peacemakers, the children of God.

In speaking with hundreds of Americans over the years about draft registration resistance, I have found that people’s objections to my objections are of two basic types. One type of response is basically that draft registration is such a minimal requirement that it isn’t worth much fuss. If this is the case, then why don’t we just get rid of draft registration, without much fuss? The other type of response is about the utter graveness of our warmaking, and usually something about our national doody. If war is so grave, perhaps the concerns around someone refusing to go postal should receive more thoughtful and consequential consideration. To add insult to injury, in a surreal show of moral farce, war apologists routinely cite “necessary evil” as their moral foundation. This is not the God I serve. Straddling these two poles of minimal and supreme concern, are the tired questions that are asked pacifists, such as: “What would you do if someone was raping your grandmother in the ally?” I learned to answer such questions with: “I’d register for the draft.” If their perplexity persisted, they might suggest that I go back to Russia (where I’ve never been) or indicated their inclination to see me face time in jail; presumably, so I am not around to not protect them.

Mean wile, back in 1980, soon after winning the presidential election, Ronald Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration. His campaign rhetoric about getting the government off the backs of people rang hollow, like a hollow bullet to my heart. The media wanted to do a story on this broken promise and how it affected the young men subject to the law, particularly those opposed to it. As it turned out, while there were millions of nonregistrants quietly in violation of the law, I was the only local public nonregistrant that they could track down, and I soon found myself highlighted in various media for years to come.

To make a long story shorter, in 1983, I was indicted for failure to register — I prefer refusal to register. In 1986, I was tried and convicted. My indiscriminate honesty more than compensated for their lack of investigatory skills. I served 107 days in the federal Community Corrections Center in Detroit, served two years probation, and served 200 hours of community service. I can’t help but note, today, since the theme is “service,” that the solution to my singular failure was to rip me from my community in order to integrate me back into my community. Plus, the court had to bean-count community service that you couldn’t have stopped me from serving anyway.

Of course, there were larger forces at work. I, and a select few others, had to be made examples of. I, for One, am proud of the example I served. In the case of The United States of America vs. Daniel A. Rutt, there was a focus on my failure/refusal. In the meantime, I had finished college, got married, finished graduate school, had a son, and got a job. I went on to serve in a public health career of almost two decades. I even got a national award from the feds for my work in health promotion — thanks for noticing, U.S. of A. For the last 16 years, I have run my own business promoting social justice.

I do not consider my time imprisoned or countless hours engaging in war resistance as any great burden. In fact, I consider this as service to my country and humanity. I do suspect that most any person who did a tour of active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan has suffered more than I.  Unfortunately, war is replete with suffering. Of course, suffering is of no great inherent value. Nonetheless, whatever we willingly suffer for is a good measure of what we truly value. I hope that more Americans, whether male or female, young or old, will volunteer to put more skin in the game and resist war in any way they can. I believe that the cost of freedom is found in not killing, rather than killing. As General Patton so infamously stated, “No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.”

It is impossible for me to separate my service from my conscience. Conscience is that small still voice that emanates from the foundation of our existence, that calls us, at the risk of trademark infringement, to be all that we can be. My war resistance is deeply rooted in following Jesus, The Prince of Peace. The Jesus I follow was executed as an enemy of the state. He was executed at the behest of the religious elite. Today, the religious elite dutifully save themselves and their clan, more faithfully blessing warmakers than counseling their youth to resist war, more conveniently blessing warmakers than counseling their youth to resist war. The first wave of martyrs in early Christendom were men who refused military service. The broader wave of martyrs were Jesus followers who refused idolatry, the literal and figurative “pinch of incense on the altar” to Caesar.

For me, draft registration is that “pinch of incense on the altar” of the state. When it comes to military service, in the great U.S.A., there is no “one nation under God.” When it comes to military service, The United States of America is God. Specifically, The United States of America, does not recognize ANY Constitutional right to refuse military service for ANY reason, including conscience or freedom of religion. As we all know, the U.S. Constitution provides for many rights, rights that cannot be infringed upon by the state. There are many constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom to petition for redress of grievances, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and the right to equal protection under the law, among others. These are often referred to as natural rights or God-given rights. Such rights define the character of a state, and place limits on its sovereignty, recognizing a power greater than itself. The United States of America, does not recognize ANY natural or God-given right to refuse military service for ANY reason. If you are surprised by this, so was I. I count this as the singular lesson that I learned in my draft registration resistance. This sad and idolatrous reality was unmasked only by a federal judge citing a Supreme Court case in a legal opinion rejecting my motion for dismissal on the basis of religious freedom. Fortunately, I have found that God’s grace extends further than legislative grace or constitutional provision of this republic. I strongly suspect that tens of millions of Americans of faith recognize that holy obedience sometimes requires civil disobedience.

My male ancestors age 16 plus who arrived to this land so many years ago were forced to swear a loyalty oath to the government, even though most didn’t even speak the language in which the oath was administered. This didn’t even seem to matter to government officials. Why is this? I suspect that the nominal and incomprehensible oath was a “pinch of incense on the altar,” a ritual form of national worship needed by a resident populace afraid of strangers. The minimal content of the oath served as a safe and surefire way to maximize compliance and minimize resistance. Who would get back on the boat and return across the sea because they had to mouth or sign an incomprehensible swearing. Who would not submit their name and basic information to the Selective Service System? Well, most young men do not register when they first become legally required. Most young men, hoping to go somewhere, register when they need to secure a driver’s license, or when they reach the shore of an education, needing a student loan.

I suspect that the ritual obedience of a “pinch of incense on the altar” may be more important than an actually functioning, fair and equitable system of potential conscription. Conspicuously absent from the Selective Service annual report is the noncompliance rate with the requirement for registrants to update their address (within 10 days) every time they move. Every observant person knows that 18-25 year-old men move a lot. How many address updates do they get? How many address updates don’t they get? Surely, this can be estimated, and certainly it matters if one actually cares about being able to effectively and fairly enlist young men in a potential draft. The noncompliance rate for initial registration is 8% for all 18-25 year-old men. I strongly suspect that the noncompliance with current address is much higher than noncompliance with initial registration; probably, in combination, high enough to blow a hole in any contention that draft registration is effective and fair. By the way, those young men not complying with address updates are subject to the same legal penalties of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. In FY 2017, 184,051 names and addresses of suspected violators to initial registration were provided to the Department of Justice. Does it strike anyone else as odd that the names and addresses of suspected violators are forwarded? If the Selective Service System has the names and addresses of potential enlistees, what else do they need?

I contend that what Selective Service is largely after is your assent to civil obedience, participation in a national religion of warmaking, your “pinch of incense on the altar,” if you will. This seems to be a better characterization of Selective Service’s function than, in the case of a military draft, to “rapidly provide personnel in a fair and equitable manner.” Oddly, if you find yourself a male age 26 or older, beyond the age requirement to register, and you failed to register, you could still run into trouble by being denied eligibility for federal student financial aid, federal job training, federal employment, or U.S. citizenship; yet, you may be in the clear if your can “show by a preponderance of evidence” that your failure to register was not knowing and willful. Just don’t be too conscientious; that is, until you have to prove that you were not conscientious. Apparently, the true crime is conscientiousness in not registering, more so than simply not registering. The selective prosecution of a few conscientious and public resisters while millions are noncompliant speaks volumes to this.  Certainly, a system where obliviousness is excusable and objecting conscientiously is a crime is a system that distorts our nation’s highest values.  I don’t object to Selective Service being shot full of holes regarding compliance. I do object to Selective Service dishonoring or punishing conscientiousness. As there is no way for a registrant to officially indicate any intent at conscientious objection, I would be very curious to see what would happen if conscientious objector status were a checkbox in the registration process. We might learn a lot about the state of conscientious objection in America. Of course, if Selective Service noncompliance is largely about non-conscientiousness, then I have to ask: What would such a level of non-conscientiousness say about what we might be fighting for and who might be fighting for it?

The draft registration system cannot account for true conscientiousness. The draft registration system cannot muster enough compliance, conscientious or not, to claim fairness and equitability. The honorable course of action, in both cases, is to end draft registration.

In truth, the actual practice of draft registration ignores conscientious objection. While there is no apparent constitutional right to refuse military conscription, there are some legislative provisions for what are called conscientious objectors. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to indicate conscientious objection during the current draft registration process. This is objectionable to many conscientiously opposed to war. Somewhat oddly, the only legal way to make such a claim is to submit to a system, the Selective Service System, whose sole purpose is preparing for war, which you must reject completely. Plus, conscientious objector status is only possible as a military service classification, if and when a draft may occur. The longer a registrant is unrecognized as conscientiously opposed to war, the further the objection. Further, conscientious objector status can only be recognized for those who are opposed to all wars. If you in good conscience object to whatever current war in which you are subject to serve, this is oddly irrelevant. You could, in fact, turn out to conscientiously object to every actual war that comes down the pike in your lifetime and this is deemed irrelevant if you are not opposed to every theoretical war (or past war). This renders conscientious objection to a meaningless idea for what is perhaps the vast bulk of being conscientiously opposed to war. Finally, there is no real mechanism to truly count or officially value the service of conscientious objectors, meaning that men will be drafted until the military need is met, whether ten or ten million men have conscientious objection. The service of a conscientious objector is superfluous to the determining aim of the Selective Service System. This itself is offensive to many persons of conscience opposed to war-making. Let’s end the criminalization of conscience.

In truth, the actual practice of warmaking habitually runs roughshod over international law and human rights. The promise of some possible future alternative service as a noncombatant is little comfort to my conscience, and of many others. In a warring world, the distinction between combatants and noncombatants offers fantastical sanitization rather than actual sanity. The fact is that across time and across a myriad of modern armed conflicts, over ten so-called “noncombatants” are killed for every “combatant.” The first casualty of war is the truth; most of the rest are noncombatants. My duty is to oppose war, not escape military service. This is my service to humanity. This service is regardless of combatant status. Plus, the best way to serve warriors happens to be ending war.

In the age of terrorism, some will claim that we live in new era of war, not subject to the old rules of war. We do live in a different time than in the 1980’s, the decade when draft registration was initiated. I can testify to a profound shift toward anti-war sentiment since then. During the first Gulf war, in the early 1990’s, I never felt so isolated as an American, confronting palpable resistance even from liberals. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, our local peace network, the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, initiated weekly Sunday demonstrations at busy intersections around town. These demonstrations for peace and against war occurred weekly for 15 years (and continue twice each month). In the early years, most of the feedback we had from passing motorists was angry yelling, middle fingers, and expletives flying. Over the years, this angry response has become rare, perhaps a couple a week, and the overwhelming positive responses are represented by hundreds of “honks for peace,” peace signs and thumbs up. Americans in the heartland of Ohio are tired of war and welcome peace. Draft registration is a relic of ages past. Why have draft registration when even the military cites no scenarios where they would want a draft?

One issue at the heart of draft registration and military conscription is what is the proper role of women in warmaking and peacemaking. I am delighted to see that women serve as 5 of the 11 commissioners. Surely, it is women who should determine what is the proper role of women, in this case, concerning warmaking and peacemaking. In my lifelong work across a wide range of social justice movements, I have found women to be the most reliable and most inspiring leaders and laborers for social justice. I strongly suspect that women will take up the mantle of even greater war resistance if they become subject to military conscription. I take inspiration to serve as a war resister from Julia Ward Howe. She, most famously known as the composer of the Battle Hymn of The Republic, was the founder of Mother’s Day, originally a day of war resistance. She issued this Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870:

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm! Disarm!” The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his time the sacred impress not of Caesar, but of God.

 In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

I would much prefer entrusting my conscience and fate to such “a general congress of women without limit of nationality,” rather than the currently constituted National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

Perhaps somewhat ironic, given my heritage, Germany now has a constitutional right to conscientious objection while the United States does not. When Germany ended conscription in 2011, the majority of those serving were conscientious objectors, and the debate had shifted from conscience to whether they should give up a huge pool of cheap labor. I believe that forced national service is incongruent with our nation’s highest ideals. I believe that volunteerism is at the core of authentic service. I suspect that lowering our ideals by forcing service is a poor way to nurture true service. Let us lead by example. This is why I am here today. If you want to gauge both the heart and the cutting edge of service in this country and for this country, look to those who volunteer, willingly, without pay, to live out their deepest values. This is the clearest view of our highest ideals incarnate, that service, that work, which cannot be bought and sold.

I appreciate the opportunity to testify before the Commission. From your bios, I can see that you are exemplary leaders in service. Unfortunately, I think that you may have an impossible job. I appreciate that Selective Service is technically considered under civilian control. Still, I can’t help but notice that both Selective Service and this Commission are heavily represented by persons from the military or traditional national security apparatus. This does not fairly represent America in the civilian service necessary to make for peace in the world. Also, about 4 in 10 Americans are persons of color, including many of those in the military. Why is this Commission even whiter than the overly white Congress who appointed it? This is not a service to America, and raises the question of whether white supremacy is part and parcel to your work. In tandem, the Commission’s overwhelmingly militarized representation and unduly whiteness, inspires little confidence that your recommendations can represent America. Perhaps it would be more honest to call this Commission an Omission. I suspect that this failure is rooted in the failure and cowardice of Congress to deal with draft registration in a changing world, that is, a world that recognizes women as equals. Congress punted on the politically unpopular choices of just ending draft registration or expanding it to women. Instead, Congress kicked the can down the road for a couple of years by creating a Commission to address this question for them. Unfortunately, This Congress-created Commission is so couched in generic service rhetoric that it is hamstrung in dealing straightforwardly with the singular issue that triggered its creation: draft registration. Until the Commission owns up to addressing the issue of draft registration as its core reason for existing, any hopes of sparking a national conversation on service will be sparks falling on damp firewood.  Further complicating the credibility of the Commission is the tightly controlled and choreographed public meetings in conjunction with severely limited open public testimony. A responsive democratic process would have began with generous opportunities for open public testimony, and then using this input to shape additional “invited” testimony. This may already be too late to remedy. The chasm between the nature of “invited” testimony and uninvited testimony betrays a characterization of the Commission’s work to date as democratic or representative. In my years of public service, both as a community planner and as a citizen participant in many public forums, I think that it is fairer to characterize the Commission’s public meetings to date more as “dog and pony shows” than as an open and responsive democratic process. For this Commission’s work to claim legitimacy, there is a lot of changes that need to be made. Lastly, having to make FOIA requests to find out about the basic public functioning of the Commission does not bode well for a culture of transparent, accountable public service by the Commission. I hope that you have found worthwhile input in my testimony to move toward a peace-loving democracy in which every one of us finds ample opportunities, free of compulsion, for self-sacrificial service for the good of all.

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PRESS STATEMENT

My name is Dan Rutt. I have traveled from Toledo, Ohio, about 250 miles away, to be here today. I am one of the select few prosecuted and imprisoned for refusing to register for the draft, back in the 1980’s. We are here today for one reason, and one reason alone: Congress punted on the politically unpopular choices of just ending draft registration or expanding it to women. Congress punted by appointing a Commission to provide recommendations regarding draft registration a couple years down the road. That Commission is the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Unfortunately, This Commission’s work is so couched in generic service rhetoric that it is hamstrung in dealing straightforwardly with the singular issue that triggered its creation: draft registration. Until the Commission owns up to honestly and openly addressing the issue of draft registration as its core reason for existing, the Commission will be a failure. Draft registration continues to have no mechanism to accommodate conscientious objection. Draft registration is fraught with noncompliance by young men either not registering at all, registering late, or not updating their addresses. The military cites no scenarios where they would want a draft. This is no time to expand draft registration, whether to women or persons with select skills the military might want. Now is the time to end draft registration. Voluntary service is true service. Let’s keep it that way.

Today’s public meeting in particular highlights the failing credibility of the Commission. Previous public meetings around the country have had very limited opportunity for open testimony from the general public. Today’s meeting has even less opportunity. Previous public meetings have been billed as having opportunities to speak directly to the Commission; and when people get there they find out that there is a scheduled two minutes per citizen. This meeting is being billed as an opportunity for Q&A, not even to the Commission but to their invited speakers. Furthermore, the overall time for the public to even participate in this insular Q&A has been cut down to “20 or 30 minutes.” From the experience of previous public meetings, the chasm between the nature of “invited” testimony and uninvited testimony betrays a characterization of the Commission’s work to date as democratic. The Commission is moving in the wrong direction. A responsive democratic process would have began with generous opportunities for open public testimony, and then used this input to shape additional “invited” testimony as needed. This may already be too late to remedy.

Unfortunately, the Commission has other credibility problems that may very well make their job impossible. This Commission is dominated by members from the military or traditional national security apparatus, all the while trying to couch their work in a broader, more generic view of service. This Commission is extremely white, in a nation where people of color are about 4 of 10 Americans. This Commission is poorly designed to represent America. To make matters worse, the Commission has chosen to conduct its business in such a manner that citizens have had to make FOIA requests to find out about the basic public functioning of the Commission. This does not bode well for a culture of transparent, accountable public service by the Commission.

Originally, I planned my trip from Toledo to Chicago, for this public meeting, to deliver testimony to the Commission, offering a story of conscience and how draft registration fails to meet a broad range of America’s ideals. Because this public meeting cannot accommodate such open testimony, I stand before you, hoping that a free press will shine a light on the ill-conceived and poorly executed work of The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

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Listen here to the audio of my brief testimony against draft registration at 1:15:10.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Donald Trump Swamped With Taxing Situations, Declares MOST UNDRAINING EVER!

Donald Trump’s promise to “Drain the swamp” from Washington, DC, is perhaps his most surreal promise of all. Today, President Donald Trump is campaigning for Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been facing mounting credible evidence of his predatory sexual behavior, especially against teen girls. Roy Moore has proven himself a liar, not that The Don has a problem with that.  With Roy Moore, Donald Trump wants to fill the swamp, officially bringing pedophilia to the Senate. Of course, Trump’s cabinet and advisers are replete with long-time corporate and political insiders. Trumpcare and the Republican tax scam were literally written by corporate tools and lobbyists.  To top it off, the Trump administration is on course to be the most corrupt Washington administration in history.  The Don may make Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon look like an amateur criminal.  As Prez Donald Trump becomes increasingly unhinged, swamped with taxing situations, he arrogantly declares, “MOST UNDRAINING. EVER.” Thus, I have created a free political poster: Donald Trump Swamped With Taxing Situations, Declares MOST UNDRAINING EVER!  Please enjoy and feel free to share with friends and enemies.FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Donald Trump Swamped With Taxing Situations, Declares MOST UNDRAINING EVER!

For another perspective on the “drain the swamp” landscape, try this commentary, Trump Made the Swamp Worse. Here’s How to Drain It:

Donald Trump’s pledges to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington attest to his genius for unintentional irony. Nepotism, egregious conflicts of interest, flights on the public dime to see Wimbledon and the eclipse — the Beltway wetlands are now wilder and murkier than ever.

It would be a mistake, though, to dismiss the swamp metaphor on account of Mr. Trump’s hypocrisy. You can’t make sense of his shocking victory last year without reference to the downward spiral of public faith in governing elites and established institutions. Years of stagnating incomes, combined with dimming prospects for the future, have primed voters for the message that the system is “rigged” and that only an outsider not beholden to the corrupt establishment can clean it up.

In other words, one key to this populist moment in American politics is the link in the public mind between dysfunction in Washington and the economic malaise of the 21st century. An effective political response to this perilous moment begins with the recognition that this link is real — and that key changes in the policymaking process, supported by a major push from organized philanthropy, will be needed to turn things around.

The image of the swamp conveys a profound truth about the American economy. Our predicament of slow growth and sky-high inequality has many causes, but one important factor is the capture of the American political system by powerful insiders — big businesses, elite professionals, wealthy homeowners — that use it to entrench their own economic power. In so doing, they protect themselves from competition, fatten their bank accounts with diverted wealth and slow the creative destruction that drives economic growth.

Four key policy areas shed light on the growth of this political-economic swamp — financial regulation, intellectual property, occupational licensing and zoning. They show that the swamp isn’t confined to Washington; it can also be found in 50 state capitals and countless local jurisdictions.

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In the financial sector, a web of regulatory subsidies sustains financial institutions’ unhealthy reliance on extremely high levels of debt. These subsidies, including policies that strongly encourage mortgage securitization as well as the implicit promise to bail out “too big to fail” institutions, swell profits in the near term while increasing the systemic risk of a catastrophic meltdown in the long run. The result is a financial sector much bigger than the economy needs, chronic misallocation of capital and the diversion of some of the country’s top talent into counterproductive work. Luring people into excessive debt, draining their savings with hidden fees, inflating the next asset bubble — these and other dubious “contributions” by finance to the economy need to be curtailed.

Intellectual property laws are supposed to encourage innovation by granting temporary monopolies to copyright and patent holders. But if those monopolies get too broad and too onerous, innovation takes a hit — and that is precisely what has happened, at the urging and for the benefit of Hollywood, Big Pharma and some interests in Silicon Valley.

Occupational licensing rules at the state level help explain why professionals in the United States are paid so much more than their peers in other countries. Primary care physicians, for example, make 50 percent more in the United States than in other advanced countries, and specialists do even better. State regulations protect the incomes of doctors, dentists, undertakers and optometrists — not to mention makeup artists and auctioneers — while also stifling innovation.

Increasingly severe constraints on building in high-income coastal cities inflate the asset values of affluent homeowners, contributing significantly to rising disparities in wealth. And by making housing unaffordable, they prevent the less well-off from moving to where the good-paying jobs are, reducing geographic and social mobility.

This regressive regulatory swamp isn’t a natural landscape; it grows because of forces in our political environment. The beneficiaries of upward redistribution are always far more organized than those who pay the costs. They can divert some of their artificially high profits into lobbying and policy research that bestow a patina of the public interest on schemes that are, in practice, legalized robbery. Drugmakers, for example, portray even the most modest retrenchment of patent law as catastrophic for American innovation, while financiers warn that any restraint on subsidized risk-taking (through higher capital requirements, for example) will starve American industry of the capital it needs to invest and grow.

This unequal battle for the minds of policymakers is particularly damaging at a time when the resources that Congress and the bureaucracy have for independent research have been systematically dismantled. In finance, in particular, Congress has a difficult time hiring and retaining staff with the technical knowledge and experience to assess the impact of new regulations, leaving them dependent on the abundant resources of the industry itself.

In addition, many regressive regulations are made in obscure places with limited participation, such as state licensing boards and town councils in charge of approving new housing. Insiders with narrow interests, whether self-serving professional groups or Nimby neighbors, have the motivation and resources to show up at poorly attended meetings and work the system, often at odds with the general public’s interest in low prices and economic opportunity.

Really draining the swamp means changing the policymaking process to shield it against insider takeover and manipulation. For starters, congressional staffs need to be expanded, upgraded and professionalized. Legislators would then be better able to make their own assessments of complex regulatory issues without having to depend on the biased expertise of industry lobbyists.

Philanthropists need to put their dollars behind a network of organizations to counter the organizational presence of the forces of upward redistribution. The Ford Foundation did this in the 1970s by investing in a network of environmental law firms like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. More recently, the Eli and Edythe Broad, Walton Family, Robertson and other charitable foundations have made similar investments in educational reforms.

Whatever you think of the merits of these causes, the new interest groups funded by sustained philanthropy changed the political landscape in these issue areas, forcing policymakers to recognize that there were, in fact, two sides to be considered. A network of new organizations with the resources and expertise to compete with big banks, the medical lobby and other industry groups could have a similar impact today. Activist groups could show up regularly in all the obscure places where rules are set and make sure that someone speaks up for the public interest.

State and local governments need to institute regulatory review procedures that expose back-room deals to objective scrutiny. While cost-benefit analysis by the Office of Management and Budget is standard for new federal regulations, no such reviews are conducted when states propose to license new occupations or cities stymie new housing construction.

Courts at all levels need to be less deferential to regulatory schemes that — in contrast to environmental or labor regulation — have no justification other than the protection of incumbent interests. For example, courts could force legislatures to explicitly approve expansions in the scope of occupational licensing, depriving licensing boards of the power to do so in shadowy obscurity.

In the political arena, the issues of regressive regulation cut across the usual partisan and ideological battle lines, and so tend to be kept off the agenda by legislative leaders who emphasize issues that hold their caucus together. Libertarian-leaning conservatives and egalitarian liberals need to forge strange-bedfellows coalitions to tackle policies that are simultaneously bad for growth and inequality. In recent years, cross-party coalitions in the states have started to make progress on criminal justice reform. Opposition to upward redistribution can galvanize support for similar alliances on regulatory issues.

The administration of Donald Trump has shown no interest in draining the real swamp that is drowning America’s economy and corrupting its politics. If public-spirited Democrats and Republicans fail to do so, trust in democracy will continue to erode. And the next demagogue who cashes in by saying he alone can fix things is likely to be more disciplined and focused than Mr. Trump — and hence even more dangerous.

FREE POSTER: Who Would Jesus Masturbate In Front Of? American Evangelical Apologists for Sexual Predation Reach a New Low . . . And Keep Reaching

I am sickened by American evangelical so-called Christians serving as apologists for sexual predation.  There is a seriously dark evil engulfing Christians who profess conservative sexual morality and also serve as the first line of defense of sexual predators, whether this takes the form of not listening to victims of sexual assault or minimizing the endemic trauma women must endure in our rape culture.  This free poster goes out to all Christians who don’t defend women from sexual harassment and sexual assault: Who Would Jesus Masturbate In Front Of? American Evangelical Apologists for Sexual Predation Reach a New Low…And Keep Reaching.Who Would Jesus Masturbate In Front Of? American Evangelical Apologists for Sexual Predation Reach a New Low And Keep Reaching While this may be the most far out “What Would Jesus Do” design I have done yet, I have a whole collection of WWJD designs from a leftist, social justice perspective:

What Would Jesus Do? Protest War ANTI-WAR BUTTONWho Would Jesus Refuse Health Care To -- SPIRITUAL WWJD BUTTON with Jesus graphic Who Would Jesus Execute--SPIRITUAL WWJD BUTTON

What Country Club Would Jesus Join -- FUNNY WWJD SPIRITUAL BUTTONWhat SUV Would Jesus Drive--FUNNY SPIRITUAL WWJD BUTTONWhat Mutual Fund Would Jesus Invest In -- FUNNY WWJD SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Who Would Jesus Bail Out SPIRITUAL BUTTONWho Would Jesus Outsource -- SPIRITUAL WWJD BUTTONWho Would Jesus Torture SPIRITUAL WWJD BUTTON

FREE EDWARD SNOWDEN POSTER: Pardon Me!

1984 Was NOT Supposed To Be An Instruction Manual POLITICAL BUTTONEdward Snowden, the infamous NSA whistleblower, is my candidate for the most heroic American this decade.  Is it time for President Obama to grant a presidential pardon to Edward Snowden?  YES!  The campaign is on, with the release of Oliver Stone’s new movie portraying Edward Snowden’s journey from ardent right-wing patriot to ardent left-wing patriot, while remaining quintessentially American and evolving into a formidable global citizen.

 I Love My Country, It's The Government I'm Afraid Of POLITICAL BUTTONAs American and planetary citizen Edward Snowden says, “Pardon me,” let’s work to get President Obama to grant a presidential pardon to this American hero.  Please feel free to circulate this free poster as a means of drumming up more public support for a Snowden pardon.

FREE EDWARD SNOWDEN POSTER: Pardon Me!

As reported in The Guardian, Edward Snowden made his case for a presidential pardon:

Edward Snowden has set out the case for Barack Obama granting him a pardon before the US president leaves office in January, arguing that the disclosure of the scale of surveillance by US and British intelligence agencies was not only morally right but had left citizens better off.

s It 1984 Already? POLITICAL BUTTONThe US whistleblower’s comments, made in an interview with the Guardian, came as supporters, including his US lawyer, stepped up a campaign for a presidential pardon. Snowden is wanted in the US, where he is accused of violating the Espionage Act and faces at least 30 years in jail.

Speaking on Monday via a video link from Moscow, where he is in exile, Snowden said any evaluation of the consequences of his leak of tens of thousands of National Security Agency and GCHQ documents in 2013 would show clearly that people had benefited.

“Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists – for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things,” he said.

“I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed. The [US] Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result.”

In order to assure the quality of your patriotism, your conversation may be monitored POLITICAL BUTTONAlthough US presidents have granted some surprising pardons when leaving office, the chances of Obama doing so seem remote, even though before he entered the White House he was a constitutional lawyer who often made the case for privacy and had warned about the dangers of mass surveillance.

Obama’s former attorney general Eric Holder, however, gave an unexpected boost to the campaign for a pardon in May when he said Snowden had performed a public service.

The campaign could receive a further lift from Oliver Stone’s film, Snowden, scheduled for release in the US on Friday. Over the weekend the director said he hoped the film would help shift opinion behind the whistleblower, and added his voice to the plea for a pardon.

Ahead of general release, the film will be shown in 700 cinemas across the US on Wednesday, with plans for Stone and Snowden to join in a discussion afterwards via a video link.

Transparency For The State, Privacy For The Rest Of US POLITICAL BUTTONIn his wide-ranging interview, Snowden insisted the net public benefit of the NSA leak was clear. “If not for these disclosures, if not for these revelations, we would be worse off,” he said.

In Hong Kong in June 2013, when he had passed his documents to journalists, Snowden displayed an almost unnatural calm, as if resigned to his fate. On Monday he said that at that time he expected a “dark end” in which he was either killed or jailed in the US.

More than three years on, he appears cheerful and relaxed. He has avoided the fate of fellow whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who is in solitary confinement in the US. Snowden is free to communicate with supporters and chats online late into the night.

His 2.3 million followers on Twitter give him a huge platform to express his views. He works on tools to try to help journalists. He is not restricted to Moscow and has travelled around Russia, and his family in the US have been to visit him.

But Snowden still wants to return to the US and seems confident, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that it will happen. “In the fullness of time, I think I will end up back home,” he said.

“Once the officials, who felt like they had to protect the programmes, their positions, their careers, have left government and we start looking at things from a more historical perspective, it will be pretty clear that this war on whistleblowers does not serve the interests of the United States; rather it harms them.”

Snowden attracts lots of conspiracy theories. Early on, he was accused of being a spy for China and then a Russian spy. In August a cryptic tweet followed by an unusual absence prompted speculation that he was dead. He said he had simply gone on holiday.

There had also been rumours that his partner, Lindsay Mills, had left him, which would have been embarrassing as their romance occupies a large part of the Stone film. Snowden said “she is with me and we are very happy”.

His revelations resulted in a global debate and modest legislative changes. More significant, perhaps, is that surveillance and the impact of technological change has seeped into popular culture, in films such as the latest Jason Bourne and television series, such as the Good Wife.

Snowden also welcomed “a renaissance of scepticism” on the part of at least some journalists when confronted by anonymous briefings by officials not backed by evidence.

He warned three years ago of the danger that one day there might be a president who abused the system. The warning failed to gain much traction, given that Obama’s presidency seemed relatively benign. But it resonates more today, in the wake of Donald Trump’s response to the Russian hacking of the Democratic party: that he wished he had the power to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

If Obama, as seems likely, declines to pardon Snowden, his chances under either Clinton or Trump would seem to be even slimmer. He described the 2016 presidential race as unprecedented “in terms of the sort of authoritarian policies that are being put forward”.

“Unfortunately, many candidates in the political mainstream today, even pundits and commentators who aren’t running for office, believe we have to be able to do anything, no matter what, as long as there is some benefit to be had in doing so. But that is the logic of a police state.”

We Don't Need More Cameras Aimed At Citizens, We Need More Cameras Aimed At Politicians And Police POLITICAL BUTTONHe is even less impressed by the British prime minister, referring to Theresa May as a “a sort of Darth Vader in the United Kingdom”, whose surveillance bill is “an egregious violation of human rights, that goes far further than any law proposed in the western world”.

Snowden was initially berated by opponents for failing to criticise the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, but he has become increasingly vocal. It is a potentially risky move, given his application for an extension of asylum is up for renewal next year, so why do it?

“Well, it would not be the first time I have taken a risk for something I believe in,” he said. “This is a complex situation. Russia is not my area of focus. It is not my area of expertise. I don’t speak Russian in a fluent manner that I could really participate in and influence policy. But when something happens that I believe is clearly a violation of the right thing, I believe we should stand up and say something about it.

“My priority always has to be my own country rather than Russia. I would like to help reform the human rights situation in Russia but I will never be well placed to do so relative to actual Russian activists themselves.”

Might he end up as part of a US-Russian prisoner exchange, with Putin possibly more amenable to the idea if Trump was in power? “There has always been the possibility that any government could say, ‘Well, it does not really matter whether it is a violation of human rights, it does not really matter whether it is a violation of law, it will be beneficial to use this individual as a bargaining chip’. This is not exclusive to me. This happens to activists around the world every day.”

He said he saw the Stone film as a mechanism for getting people to talk about surveillance, though he felt uncomfortable with other people telling his story.

Snowden has toyed with writing his memoirs but has not made much progress. There are at least three books about him on the way; an extensively researched one by the Washington Post’s Bart Gellman and two others thought to be hostile.

Asked if he was the source for the Panama Papers – the comments by the source sound like Snowden – he laughed. He praised the biggest data leak in history, adding that he would normally be happy to cloak other whistleblowers by neither denying nor confirming he was a source. But he would make an exception in the case of the Panama Papers. “I would not claim any credit for that.”

got privacy? POLITICAL BUTTONFor someone who has spent his life trying to keep out of the public eye, he has now appeared in a Hollywood movie and an Oscar-winning documentary, and several plays, including Privacy, which just ended a run in New York and in which he has a part alongside Daniel Radcliffe.

“It was an alarming experience for me. I am not an actor. I have been told I am not very good at it. But you know if I can, I can try and maybe it will help, I will give it my best shot.”

For Snowden, his campaign for a pardon, even if forlorn, offers a chance to highlight his plight, and he expressed thanks to all those who were backing it. He also said he hoped that after the fuss of the movie he could finally fade into the background. “I really hope it is over,” he said. “That would be the greatest gift anyone could give me.”

Edward Snowden - AMERICAN HERO - Taking Great Personal Risk for Truth POLITICAL BUTTONThis Edward Snowden design is available as buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, mini-posters, caps, mugs, stickers, and more!  Also, check out more designs about the security state and secret surveillance.

 

 

 

POEM: Standing On My Privy Ledge

I am a white, straight, Christian, male
And you see that
I am afraid
Though paying attention
To what is fare
I am more afraid
Of whites than blacks
Of straights than queers
Of Christians than Muslims
Of men than women
Of what is in than out
Of wear it so easy
To be dark, crooked, un-Christian, and un-manly
Standing on my privy ledge
Only names dropping
And eliminating a void
For it’s all in
The taking
That in is capable plunge
Before the plumb it
Takes us
Awe down
Oar
Run over by a drain
Holey a bout
In which wee re-side
And set assail
As expect torrent-ly weight
Up on that wayward look out
Going long with dinghy surroundings
Only keeping us on won’s tows
Castles in the err
As hope tangles with whose faltering
If only to feel
The win behind your back
In one fell sloop
Without assemblance of humanity
Ripping that one accord
With know shoot culpable save you
You are precariously throne
As a matter of coarse, bowled over
Un-less first choice
To devote your undivided tension
To what is fare
Forsake of humanity
Either weigh
That first step
Is a due see

This poem is about privilege: the privilege men have over women, the privilege whites have over blacks and other people of color, the privilege Christians have over Muslims, the privilege straight folks have over queer folk.   Privilege Is When You Think Something Is Not A Problem Because It's Not A Problem To You Personally POLITICAL BUTTONEnd Heterosexual Privilege - Rainbow Pride Bar--Gay Pride Rainbow Store BUTTONThis is a first person poem, in that I am such a multi-privileged person.  The unnamed privilege in this poem is the privilege people living in the first-world have over people living in the second- or third-world (or as some say: the two-thirds world).

I have been pondering the reality of privilege most of my life.  I consider my birth into this world in Haiti, but as a son of white, well-educated Americans, as representative of profound tensions within my life in relation to the many human conundrums set up by vast differences in privilege.  My Mennonite heritage, steeped in values of simple living, has been a fortuitous foundation for my drift into economic irrelevancy and semi-voluntary poverty. Live Simply So Others May Simply Live - POLITICAL BUTTONMy training and career in public health has afforded me a perspective rich in dealing with social justice.  My vocation and avocation as a social justice activist has yielded abundant opportunities to stand in solidarity with my human kin, and even reflect upon erudite concepts such as intersectionality.  My short stint in prison plus hanging around more poor folks has helped prompt me to shed some of my middle-class sensibilities.  I am working intentionally to trade many of my first world problems for second- and third-world problems.  Yet, perhaps the greatest testament to my many privileges, is that I still feel like the richest person I know (though I don’t really get out that much).

Recently, my dealing with privilege has been kicked into high gear, with the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement.  BLACK LIVES MATTER [Black Power Symbol] POLITICAL BUTTONI am deeply grateful to all of the people of color, queer folk, highly conscious feminists, and “others” who have enriched my life beyond belief.  got privilege? POLITICAL BUTTONI hope that the privilege I have at my disposable serves the larger interest of equality for all.  May any privilege we possess not possess us but spur us to break down any inhuman barriers that separate us.

Feel free to check out LGBT equality designs, Black Lives Matter designs, feminism designs, human rights designs, and anti-hate, anti-discrimination designs.

HAPPINESS: Hedonic Happiness Versus Meaningful Happiness

I have long been interested in happiness and happiness research.  I recently stumbled across one of the most fascinating scientific articles of any kind that I have read in recent years: Some Key Differences Between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life.  This happiness research focused on the crucial differences between happiness attributed simply to one’s pleasurable experiences — hedonic happiness — and happiness attributable to experiencing meaning in life.

This particular happiness research peaked my interest because I have been accused of arrogance or hubris in claiming that some people with high levels of happiness may be missing out on substantial aspects or portions of happiness.  My alleged “second guessing” of peoples’ subjective state is substantially confirmed by this groundbreaking happiness research.

From the authors’ abstract:

“Satisfying one’s needs and wants increased happiness but was largely irrelevant to meaningfulness. Happiness was largely present-oriented, whereas meaningfulness involves integrating past, present, and future. For example, thinking about future and past was associated with high meaningfulness but low happiness. Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker. Higher levels of worry, stress, and anxiety were linked to higher meaningfulness but lower happiness.”

The pleasure of satisfying needs and wants (hedonic happiness) has little to do with leading a meaningful life.  Plus, worry, stress, and anxiety are linked to higher meaningfulness and lower (hedonic) happiness.  The developmental tasks of integrating meaning into and across one’s life can be stress-inducing.  Fortunately, to cut to the chase, leading a meaningful life contributes substantially to a happy life, often accounting for losses in hedonic happiness.  Though the stress of leading a very difficult but meaningful life may result in lower overall level of happiness.  From my perspective, risking or sacrificing hedonic pleasures for a life of increased meanings strikes me as, well…meaning full.

From the introduction:

“The wishes for happiness and for a meaningful life are two of the most widely held goals by which people measure and motivate themselves. A breathtakingly broad variety of other common goals and strivings — as examples, the desires to be healthy, to be loved, to succeed at work, to raise children, to serve one’s religion or country — can be subsumed under either or both of those broad wishes. The present article addresses the relationship between the two. Although undoubtedly happiness and a meaningful life have substantial overlap, our focus is on the differences. More precisely, we shall develop theory and provide data about what factors differentially predict happiness and meaningfulness.

Positive psychology took off in the 1990s as a corrective to psychology’s heavy emphasis on illness, suffering, and misfortune. It sought to enrich human life and enhance human functioning. The study of happiness has received a tremendous boost from the advent of positive psychology. Research on what makes life meaningful has increased as well, but perhaps not nearly as much. This special issue of the journal may be a useful corrective in that it undertakes to call the attention of positive psychologists (and other interested researchers) to issues of meaning and meaningfulness. The present investigation was intended partly to clarify some key differences between happiness and meaningfulness.

We shall argue that although happiness and meaning are important features of a desirable life and indeed are interrelated, they have different roots and implications (MacGregor & Little, 1998). Happiness may be rooted in having one’s needs and desires satisfied, including being largely free from unpleasant events. Meaningfulness may be considerably more complex than happiness, because it requires interpretive construction of circumstances across time according to abstract values and other culturally mediated ideas.”

I deeply appreciate an integrated middle ground between the all-too-frequent pathologizing in modern psychology and a common superficial view in both research and everyday life of happiness as in essence simply pleasant emotional states.  This research seems to get at the heart of integrating our understanding of the interplay between “positive” emotional experience and the genuinely difficult search for experiencing meaning amidst the hardness in life.  Such an understanding seems critical to a more holistic view of happiness, fuller of our best shot at living amidst ultimate realities (objective realities?) than the surreal view of happiness potentially, perhaps even ideally, disconnected from and unmediated by objective reality, i.e., happiness as a purely subjective state.

In defining happiness:

“Happiness is generally defined as subjective well-being, which is to say, an experiential state that contains a globally positive affective tone. It may be narrowly or broadly focused: A person may claim to be happy to have found a lost shoe, happy that the war is over, or happy to be having a good life. Researchers have conceptualized and measured happiness in at least two quite different ways. One is affect balance, indicating having more pleasant than unpleasant emotional states, and is thus essentially an aggregate of how one feels at different moments. The other, life satisfaction, goes beyond momentary feelings to invoke an integrative, evaluative assessment of one’s life as a whole.

Meaning can be a purely symbolic or linguistic reality, as in the meaning of a word. The question of life’s meaning thus applies symbolic ideas to a biological reality. Meaningfulness is presumably both a cognitive and an emotional assessment of whether one’s life has purpose and value. People may feel that life is meaningful if they find it consistently rewarding in some way, even if they cannot articulate just what it all means. Our focus is on meaningfulness and the meaning of life.

Operationally, we let participants in our studies define happiness and a meaningful life in whatever way they chose, rather than imposing specific definitions on them. We also assumed (and found) that the two overlap substantially…In particular, it should be possible to have a highly meaningful life that is not necessarily a happy one (e.g., as religious missionary, political activist, or terrorist).”

These researchers anchor their theory of happiness to the idea that happiness is natural and meaning is cultural.  Of course, these two constructs overlap and interrelate.  How they are related was the purpose of their research.

“We assume the simpler form of happiness (i.e., affect balance rather than life satisfaction), at least, is rooted in nature. All living creatures have biological needs, which consist of things they must obtain from their environment in order to survive and reproduce. Among creatures with brains and central nervous systems, these basic motivations impel them to pursue and enjoy those needed things, and the satisfaction of those needs generally produces positive feeling states. Conversely, negative feelings arise when those needs are thwarted. Hence affect balance depends to some degree on whether basic needs are being satisfied. Possibly life satisfaction too could be swayed by whether, in general, one is getting the things one wants and needs. Human beings are animals, and their global happiness therefore may depend on whether they generally get what they want and need.

If happiness is natural, meaningfulness may depend on culture. All known cultures use language, which enables them to use meanings and communicate them. There is a large set of concepts underlying language, and these concepts are embedded in interconnected networks of meaning. These are built up over many generations, and each new person comes to learn most of these meanings from the group. Appraising the meaningfulness of one’s life thus uses culturally transmitted symbols (via language) to evaluate one’s life in relation to purposes, values, and other meanings that also are mostly learned from the culture. Meaning is thus more linked to one’s cultural identity than is happiness.

Although this special issue is devoted to “personal meaning,” meaning itself is not personal but rather cultural. It is like a large map or web, gradually filled in by the cooperative work of countless generations. An individual’s meaningfulness may be a personally relevant section of that giant, culturally created and culturally transmitted map.

One crucial advantage of meaning is that it is not limited to the immediately present stimulus environment. Meaningful thought allows people to think about past, future, and spatially distant realities (and indeed even possibilities). Related to that, meaning can integrate events across time. Purpose, one important component of meaningfulness, entails that present events draw meaning from future ones. The examples listed above of meaningful but not happy lives (e.g., oppressed political activist) all involve working toward some future goal or outcome, such that the future outcome is highly desirable even though the present activities may be unpleasant. Meaningfulness may therefore often involve understanding one’s life beyond the here and now, integrating future and past. In contrast, happiness, as a subjective feeling state, exists essentially in the present moment. At most, happiness in the form of life satisfaction may integrate some degree of the past into the present — but even so, it evaluates the past from the point of view of the present. Most people would probably not report high life satisfaction on the basis of having had a good past but while being currently miserable.

Consistent with that view that meaning integrates across time, Vallacher and Wegner (1985, 1987) found that higher levels of meaning were consistently marked by longer time frames. As people shifted toward more concrete and less meaningful ways of thinking about their actions, they became more focused on the here and now. Thus, a wedding can be described both as “making a lifelong commitment to love” and as “saying some words in a church.” The former invokes a longer time span and is more meaningful than the latter.

Indeed, Baumeister (1991) observed that life is in constant change but strives for stability, and meaning is an important tool for imposing stability on the flux of life. For example, the feelings and behaviors that two mates have toward each other will fluctuate from day to day, sometimes even momentarily, but culturally mandated meanings such as marriage define the relationship as something constant and stable. (And marriage does in fact help to stabilize relationships, such as by making it more difficult for the partners to dissolve the relationship.) Such ongoing involvements undoubtedly contribute to the degree of meaningfulness a life has. Put another way, the pursuit of goals and fulfillments through ongoing involvements and activities that are interlinked but spread across time may be central to meaningfulness.

Again, we assume there is substantial overlap between meaningfulness and happiness. Humans are social beings, and participation in social groups is a vital means by which people satisfy their basic needs in order to survive and reproduce. Hence interpersonal involvement, among other things, is surely vital for both meaning and happiness. We do not intend to dwell on such things as interpersonal belongingness, because our focus is on the differences between meaningfulness and happiness, but we acknowledge their importance. Although both happiness and meaningfulness may involve interpersonal connection, they may differ in how one relates to others. Insofar as happiness is about having one’s needs satisfied, interpersonal involvements that benefit the self should improve happiness. In contrast, meaningfulness may come instead from making positive contributions to other people.

Although needs can be satisfied in a selfish fashion, the expression and development of selfhood tends to invoke symbolic relations and is therefore more a matter of meaning than happiness. MacGregor and Little (1998) found that the meaningfulness of individuals’ personal projects depended on how consistent they were with core aspects of self and identity. Many animals have the same basic needs as humans, but the human self is far more elaborate and complex than what other animals exhibit. Part of the reason is that the human self is created and structured on the basis of the cultural system (see Baumeister, 2011). On that basis, we predicted that selfhood would have different relationships to happiness and meaningfulness. Happiness would mainly be linked to whether the self’s needs are being satisfied. Meaningfulness would be far more broadly related to what activities express and reflect the symbolic self, some of which would involve contributing to the welfare of others (individually or in general) or other culturally valued activities.”

In more simple term, culture is what separates humans from other animals.  Much pre-existing happiness research focused too closely on the animal (natural) aspects of humans and not adequately accounting for meaning (cultural) aspects.  I can’t help but notice that modern science, with its mechanistic models, often leaves the heart and soul — meaning — of humanity unasccounted for, and therefore devalued.

To conclude and integrate these happiness researchers’ findings:

“Meaningfulness and happiness are positively correlated, so they have much in common. Many factors, such as feeling connected to others, feeling productive, and not being alone or bored contribute similarly to both. Yet the two are distinct, and the focus of this investigation has been to identify the major differences in correlates of happiness (corrected for meaning) and meaningfulness (corrected for happiness). Correcting highly correlated variables for each other can reverse effects, which may contribute to some inconsistency in the literature. Future research should distinguish happiness from meaningfulness, because many ostensible contributors to happiness are in fact mainly associated with meaning and have little or no direct contribution to happiness except by way of increasing meaning. For example, helping others may actually increase happiness because it increases meaningfulness, which in turn contributes to happiness, but when we corrected for the effect on meaningfulness, the pure effect of helping others was if anything the opposite: a reduced level of happiness.

Our findings suggest that happiness is mainly about getting what one wants and needs, including from other people or even just by using money. In contrast, meaningfulness was linked to doing things that express and reflect the self, and in particular to doing positive things for others. Meaningful involvements increase one’s stress, worries, arguments, and anxiety, which reduce happiness. (Spending money to get things went with happiness, but managing money was linked to meaningfulness.) Happiness went with being a taker more than a giver, while meaningfulness was associated with being a giver more than a taker. Whereas happiness was focused on feeling good in the present, meaningfulness integrated past, present, and future, and it sometimes meant feeling bad. Past misfortunes reduce present happiness, but they are linked to higher meaningfulness — perhaps because people cope with them by finding meaning.

The Highly Meaningful But Unhappy Life

Our data enable us to construct a statistical portrait of a life that is highly meaningful but relatively low in happiness, which illuminates the differences between happiness and meaningfulness. This sort of life has received relatively little attention and even less respect. But people who sacrifice their personal pleasures in order to participate constructively in society may make substantial contributions. Cultivating and encouraging such people despite their unhappiness could be a goal worthy of positive psychology.

Our findings depict the unhappy but meaningful life as seriously involved in difficult undertakings. It was marked by ample worry, stress, argument, and anxiety. People with such lives spend much time thinking about past and future: They expect to do a lot of deep thinking, they imagine future events, and they reflect on past struggles and challenges. They perceive themselves as having had more unpleasant experiences than others, and in fact 3% of having a meaningful life was due to having had bad things happen to you.

Although these individuals may be relatively unhappy, several signs suggest they could make positive contributions to society. High meaningfulness despite low happiness was associated with being a giver rather than a taker. These people were likely to say that taking care of children reflected them, as did buying gifts for others. Such people may self-regulate well, as indicated by their reflecting on past struggles and imagining the future, and also in their tendency to reward themselves.

One can also use our findings to depict the highly happy but relatively meaningless life. People with such lives seem rather carefree, lacking in worries and anxieties. If they argue, they do not feel that arguing reflects them. Interpersonally, they are takers rather than givers, and they give little thought to past and future. These patterns suggest that happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided.”

I am so delighted, even happy, that I stumbled across this happiness research.  May the deepest harmonies of nature and human culture conspire to bring about profound happiness for us all.

COMEDIAN JESUS: Pax Romana — You’re Killing Me!

This Comedian Jesus political cartoon highlights the shallow liberalism and false choices of Pax Romana, the metaphorical stand-in for Pax Americana, peace through so-called enlightened domination.

Comedian Jesus Pax Romana Killing Me

This Comedian Jesus cartoon also ties the all-too-convenient collaboration of political and religious elites in the less-than-enlightened shared interest of self-preservation and the status quo.  Prophets, making radical calls for accountability, and modeling self-sacrifice, make the powers that be grate agin and agin.  Many American Christians oddly reframe Jesus execution as simply some sort of metaphysical accounting adjustment, minimizing his direct challenge to political and religious elites.  Jesus was a threat to Roman political rule, brutally enforced by military rule in its extended territories, the colonies of the age.  Racism, xenophobia, and straightforward domination was part and parcel to the Roman order, cynically referred to as Pax Romana.  Non Violent Revolutionaries Raze Hell--POLITICAL BUTTONJesus’ creative nonviolence suited the oppressed Jews (and others) with amor of hope, and provided bold tools to disarm Roman rule.   Non Violent Revolution--POLITICAL BUTTONJesus was a threat to religious elites due to his profound challenges to the authority and legitimacy of religious elites and his surging popularity.  Also, Jesus was seen as indirectly stoking the possibilities of a violent insurrection (Judas, from the Zealots who believed in violent insurrection, may have betrayed Jesus in hopes that his martyrdom would trigger revolutionary actions among the populace).  The religious elites had much to lose as their collaboration with the occupying Roman powers had bought them special privileges, a classic technique of dominating powers to buy so-called peace, in this case the brutal-for-most Pax Romana.  PEACE QUOTE: Peaceful Revolution--PEACE SIGN BUTTONPilate, in questioning Jesus employs another classic technique of ultimately evading accountability with his infamous “What is truth?” interrogative.  This now infamous questioning, would eventually become an iconic emblem of what is now central to postmodern thought: the relativity of truth.  For the worse, such an easy liberalism provides great smokescreens for the powers that be to evade accountability with feigned intellectual and ideological credence.  The modern day Roman empire of Western civilization has assured full employment of this shallow liberalism.  This Comedian Jesus political cartoon parodies this with the brutal liberality of getting to choose your method of death, the too-close-too-home reality for millions under Pax Americana.

America Is NOT At War, The Military Is At War, America Is At The Mall POLITICAL BUTTONTo bring all of this home in contemporary fashion, the choice of Roman/American citizens choosing which shade of empire they want to enrich its citizenry, casts a long shadow, and essentially false choice from the perspective of those not benefiting from Roman/American citizenship. End The Warfare State ANTI-WAR BUTTON While the votes of citizens are bought with many denominations, and presented in contrasting shades of liberality, the church of American privilege is built on a foundation of military might and awe that money can buy.  For those whose world is colonized by America, or who live and die as nominal citizens relegated to apartheid-like ghettos, the so-called choice of their brand of ruler remains of profoundly grate consequence.  People Before Profits POLITICAL BUTTONPlanetary citizens are hoping for prophets over profits.  It's A Planet Not An Empire POLITICAL BUTTONMother Earth is quiet udderly sweating this election.  I witness the desperate fighting for our own scraps of privilege as sadly pathetic in the light of America’s finest ideals.  May we rise up in another American revolution, this time for the benefit all God’s children and beauteous creation.

rEVOLution is the Solution (LOVE) - POLITICAL BUTTONIn Times of Universal Deceit Telling Truth a Revolutionary Act--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

Feel free to browse more of Top Pun’s anti-imperialism designs designed to end global domination.

POEM: A Choiring, Raw Youth

Their raw youth
Was tenderly witnessed
By age owed eyes
In awe
Their awkward glory
Surpassing polished learning
More than could ever anew

This poem is a reminder to both young and old about the raw beauty of youth, the vim and vigor, dream-filled ebullience, and grace-filled awkwardness.  This poem can be understood without additional context, though the title — A Choiring, Raw Youth — is perhaps both a clue and enigma.  This poem was inspired by a high school choir performing at the retirement community where my dad lives.  I was youthful in compare to the rest of the audience, but, I am at that age where high school kids look look younger every year — and eventually either they or I will be issued diapers!  The experience and perspective of age — age owed eyes — may be uniquely able to appreciate the stunning juxtaposition of adolescent awkwardness and untainted talent.  For me, this elicited great compassion and hope.  It is a rare day that I would trade age for youth.  Though I frequently quip that youth is wasted on the young.  Still, even this quip is a cloaked compliment at the glory of youth, in awe of its awkwardness and blooming energy.  Their performance made a home for joy.  And as they headed out into the world, I trust that their freshness will continue to make this place we call earth ever anew.  I was bettered by the presence of their performance.  May people of awe ages give way to their fresh hope and awkward glory.

POEM: Re-lying on Day-old Knews

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah
The news drones on
Massaging and spinning
Disembodied heads a top
Heartless ‘n titties in dis cursive and desultry means
Temperately flailing to wake us
From our terrorific slumber
Our tired and true rejoinder
Hit the snooze
Yes! In the land of nod
Obey the well-dressed anchor
Around your neck
Nothing to see, hear!
Accept properly-placed comas
Overlooking a legion of meanings
That might
Arise from our side
Maddened more
By head lines in-grave
As face each mourn
Not up to catching forty hoodwinks
Before rolling over and playing dead
To any smooth promise posed
To have done with the etched of the earth
Penned in stone
Fashioned to suture self
With the bounty of some spell binding medium
Ripped at the seem
Quipped with stupefying farce
As the wise crack
Humanity snapping to a tension
‘n snare with each punch line
It’s how the net works
Naught
To see the catch
Re-lying on day-old knews
In abiding wore
For flagging ardor
And uniform fatigues
Am bushed
And each recurring brake of daze
Pared with a new assault
To be taken
With agreein’
Ennui start all over agin

The news as imperfected by the American media conglomerates may represent the most distant information and perspective in acquiring and harmonizing with timeless truths.  Drowning In Information But Starved For Truth [TV] POLITICAL BUTTONThis incongruence between timeliness and timelessness is a form of endemic violence perpetuated on the American public.  What bleeds leads, and awe is vanity.  Flittering from superficial story to superficial story leaves the cursory public interest unattended too.  The veil of objectivity alludes responsibility.  The conveniently hidden agenda of corporate interests routinely protects itself from authentic critique.  Useful as chain mail, amid evil sensibility is safeguarded for the lords of the manner.  Civility hijacks dissent.  Of coarse, vulgar opinion poses handily as master debating.

I find an antidote to such blindness-producing jerks, listening to Democracy Now (DemocracyNow.org) every weekday.  If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing -- Malcolm X quote POLITICAL BUTTONThis bastion of independent media provides in-depth coverage of real issues and real people, speaking truth to power every broadcast.  Also, I relish the launching of Toledo’s own independent, noncommercial radio station, WAKT 106.1 FM, this July.  This radio station will provide locally-produced content free from commercial interests.  My public health show, Just for the Health of it, will take on corporate health interests to aid and abet local folks in powering up their own health, the health of our community, and the health of our planet.

May you find meaningful and uplifting sources of news and information, good for awe.

Check out my dozens of Fox News/Faux News parodies here.

Faux News - Unencumbered by Truth (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTON FAUX NEWS - Making The World Safe For Stupidity (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTONFaux News - Preferred by 5 Out of 4 Rednecks (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: A Truth Foul

If you should believe
The hole truth
And nothing
A butt the truth
You may well be
Full if it
Perfectly primed
For letting go
Unable to be taken
Any more
By a singular won
Given
By an other

This poem, like many of my poems, can be understood (or misunderstood) many ways.  Mostly, this is a poem about both hubris and hope.  If we are so full of ourselves in our ability to ascertain the truth and we are skeptical enough to find believing nothing as a dominant mode, then we may very well dangerous to others seeking truth.  Hubris is the blinding arrogance of our own experience of truth as the dominant mode.  This is typically matched by a substantial discounting of others’ experience of truth.  Hubris is cynicism producing and the enemy of hope.  Hope is able to blossom when our perspective is genuinely open to others’ experiences and whatever current ideology we hold is alive enough to grow in the light of the living truth in other living beings.  This is typically paired with a humble attitude toward our own limited body of experiences.  I see true humility as a right-sizing of our place and role in the world (and universe).  True humility, as most commonly viewed, is not being too big or oversized.  Of course, true humility is also served by us rising up to whatever responsibility matches our particular endowment of moral agency and power.  Being too small is a vote for humiliation, not humility.  The line in the poem, “Unable to be taken,” similarly cuts both ways.  “Being taken,” as duped or cheated, is perhaps one of the most unwelcome and trust betraying realities in life.  I suspect that it is difficult to overestimate the effort we will employ to avoid such situations.  Similarly true, “being taken,” as in being taken by a lover or experience of overwhelming awe, can be profoundly life transforming in previously unimagined ways.  I think that the openness and vulnerability inherently in “being taken” inextricably links both forms/meanings.  Hardening oneself to being duped or cheated likewise hardens one’s ability and likelihood of enthrallment.  By cutting ourselves off from vulnerability and intimacy, we rob ourselves of its upsides, in essence throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  I posit that living a life that is not adept at being taken is a life that to that same degree is not fully lived.   May you find hope and enthrallment that is worth infinitely more than whatever you have been cheated out of life.

POEM: Flocking Boss Leaves Behind Their Helm

He new
Not the least bit sheepishly
Just saying
I am not the boss of ewes
And ewes not the boss of me

This is perhaps my first poem that might be best read with a New Jersey accent.  This poem may very well be a tribute to a budding anarchist, one who newly recognizes that life is best lived as neither the boss of others nor the subject of bosses.  Such a way of living springs from a humility and holistic perspective that bossing others around is an insult to the fullness of life of all.  Plus, throwing off the rule of bosses demands courage and fortitude, perhaps not a little bit ironically, “like a boss” — though channeled to being the boss of one’s own life, not a boss lording over others.  This poem also accents the boss-like oppression of sheepishly following other sheep, where cowardly complicity in the face of bosses diminishes us all.  If you should seek to master such boss-less living, may you find ever new ways to live as equal partners with other people and all living beings, neither lording over or shrinking below.

POEM: To Be, Sow Fly

Could it possibly be
A cliff hangar
She jumped
In what felt
Like
A free fall
The feint of art
Closing their eyes
Thinking this only is
For the birds
Or perhaps angels
Or butterflies borne by the wind
For life is never a breeze
Fore the heavy
Thinking
Too much
Wait
Never suspect
Beyond
A cruel goad
Only trying
Too flutter me
Amid fleeting heir
In the grip
Of only that
Which can be
Grasped by wings
Feeling confidant
Enough
To be
Sow fly

This poem is about the lightness of heart and soul to take off in life.  This poem is also about the courage needed to let the seemingly ethereal stuff of life lift us up.  Our highest hopes can offer a birds-eye view of what is often a harsh landscape.  A higher perspective can reveal paths and possibilities outside of the realm of those anchored only in concrete reality.  Plus, flying can be real fun and absolutely invigorating.  May you find flight for your dreams and be a beacon for those looking for a way.

POEM: Love Making

I was mistaken
All those years
Those sweetest ours
Thinking I was making love
When in truth
Love was making me

This love poem, as most of my poems, can be read several ways.  Of course, the simplest reading is a testament to the transformative power of romantic relationship love.  Love is more than something that we, as individuals, “make.”  Love is something larger than ourselves that we participate in.  Love makes us better humans, much more so than could be designed by our minds however clever, or imagined by our hearts however large and open.  Certainly, love makes us better than we could ever be outside of human relationships, on our own.

When thinking of poetry, I suspect that thinking of love poems is the most common and iconic.  Love, the mystery of mysteries, is at the heart of poetry, trying to put into words that which can’t quite be put into words.  I have described writing poetry as the heart and mind making love.  The melding of the workings of the heart and mind is a struggle for balance and wholeness that pervades every human endeavor.

Psalm 85:10 describes this as peace and justice kissing.  My intent in writing this poem was also to allude to such a wide theme, that of loving the world in a way that makes the world a better place for all.  Peace and justice kissing is the way this becomes a reality in the world.  Practicing that discipline of love makes us better humans, even if the reciprocity of that love is not immediately evident.  Describing such ventures as love of God — love of Love — is a common spiritual discipline to carry us through the dry patches of of unrequited love on earth.  Such love lives in the hope that the way of love (God’s will) will be “on earth as it is in heaven” (from the Lord’s prayer).  Of course, the demands of justice are trans-generational, perhaps perpetual, requiring a patience and perspective beyond our own life.  We don’t work simply for ourselves, that is if we are working in love and for justice.  It strikes me, sometimes in the face, that love of enemy is the gold standard spiritual practice for melding peace and justice, holding fast to perfecting love, in creating a world where one side fits all.  Every loving act brings us closer to peace and justice, no matter how far off they seem.  Every loving act engenders hope and courage for both the gentle patience and bold courage needed for peace and justice to kiss.  May you find love in every personal relationship, within your community, and in every conception of God you may have.

 

 

Double Oh No: The Name’s Cadabra, Abra Cadabra

God’s
Name is knot
Abracadabra
Too be unloosed
Unwhirled
As owed man
Putting on
Some kind
Of spectacle
Who’s genesis
Giving
No quarter
To years
Behind
In a sense
Out right hostility
And udder a version
Sow called
Crater of the whirled
And awe wanting
Clear too see
Not a wood be casket
Drowning in a box
That must
Not hold water
As wee might reckon
Only too be
Delivered
In the final seeing
As figure out
By no means
Self evident
Pulling rabid
From won’s hat
Empty
Sored in passable caskets
Wee suspect
As a parent harms
As sure as there are no teeth
In taking
A bullet to the head
Wear the art
Matter’s not
And yet
Who is
The one
Cutting people in
Have
Awe that is given
Taking it
To the blank
As grater than
A loathe of bred
From nothing
Excepting freely
Wile rooting fore the nix
In a New York minute
As some goaled in goose egg
In disposed
Of whatever
Ladder day judge meant
Too due no wrung
As diff a cult
To under stand
As re-bounding
Back to the show
Is caping
Behind curtains
For the wrest of us
Only too be duped
In mere images
Peering real
Mirrorly a muse
Meant for inspiration
Knot too be swallowed
Hole in won
Or fish tails sow bred
Subject to
Dis tract
As divine accessory
And slight offhand
In vane miss direction
On the eve of knowledge
As simply a trick
Convinced one no’s
How it is
Done
Nothing
Too see
Hear
More than wee in vision
In blinding silence fallow
In a tacit urn hoarse
And yack knowledge
A bit fancy
Meager too please
As inn sufficient
Comforted buy con jury
In the worst kind
Of source err he
As if
Got hour
Back
To slots plain
As abettor
Be helled
No good
For make believe
When cloaked in daggers

This poem strikes a familiar theme of mine, the parent elusiveness of God and the unsophisticated ways of even daring to speak of such things from most any perspective brought to bear.  The dark side of religion has wreaked hellish trauma, bludgeoning both real people and tender hope for sublime understanding.  Militants, that is fundamentalists, from both theist and atheist perspectives routinely bash each other.  Religionists often infantalize atheists, and atheists are often eager to throw the baby out with the bathwater.   My guess is that if theists and atheists got together and compiled all of the gods they don’t believe in, that there would be a pantheon of common ground.  I view militancy, that is fundamentalism, as the primary divide, not theism and atheism.  There are plenty of poor intentions and chronic misunderstandings to go around.  As I see it, militancy bespeaks violence, that is a commitment to winning by creating losers, forever separated buy uncrossable divides in human life, terminally fighting over uncommon ground.  Fundamentalism of all types reduces perpetual paradoxes and the centrality of metaphorical ways of seeing the higher aspects of life to small-minded literalism stuck arguing facts rather than truth and stiff-hearted relationships valuing right ideology over harmonious community.  The siblings of truth and harmony, which are deep quests of theists and atheists, religion and science, or of anyone seeking to work out the seems of their worldview, knead less judgment and a sober patience unwilling to bury others in uncommon ground.

As in most conflicts, power and trust are the ultimate issues, or perhaps more to the point, abuses of power and trust.  Personally, I am increasingly convinced that absolute power absolutely corrupts.  Hell, I even believe God shares power in order to create a better overall world, that is not merely more benevolent and fair, but creates the very foundations for the highest human aspirations and shatters the ceiling of cosmological and worldly puppetry (and the inevitable puppet tiers).  I experience my most human living on a small-scale, in community, where direct accountability to one another breeds well proportioned living.  This brings humanity to power and builds trust seamlessly into the process.  Such human-scaled enterprises are far more sane, represented by the encouraging movements to local — not loco.  Large-scale enterprises are typically suited and tied in hubris, albeit the the finest hubris civilization can offer.  Only such large-scale undertakings can globalize insanity alongside the endemic learned helplessness paralyzed in the reality of “how did we get here?!”  In human community, power resides in people.  Power in human community requires consent.  Complicated — often called “civilized” — nonhuman mechanisms to consolidate power, typically under the auspices of creating “bigger and better” things, ultimately rely on people’s consent.  This often does succeed in producing bigger things; though the better part, our humanity, commensurately suffers in the accelerating smallness and relative unimportance of people in such enterprises.  Not surprisingly, people, not built for such inhumanity, become viewed as the problem, gumming up the efficient workings of the machine.  Depressingly sow, our views of human nature are then tempted to align with the misanthropic view that people are less important than things — see corporate personhood.  Withdraw consent and these nonhuman and inhuman structures and mechanism whither.  This speaks to the importance of protest and noncooperation/resistance to appointed authorities of all unkinds.  Opting out of institutional and corporate enterprises starves the beast and  frees up time and life energies for building alternative human communities.  Active noncooperation and resistance naturally arise as the dominant and dominating culture (sic) inevitably will clash with any growing culture (hopefully viral) that questions the sick assumptions and unearned trust of its immeasurable victims.  In such a project, Jesus radicals, atheist anarchists, and sordid kinds of others can find common ground, fertile for reclaiming our humanity in a whirled of profit tiers.  Let us not be distracted by our differences, but rather unite  in disavowing all things undermining the human heart.

POEM: Kindness 1.618 — Owed To The Goaled In Proportion

A parent
In the relationship
Between to be gotten
The larger to the smaller
The goaled in proportion
Amidst just us
Sum times christened
The divine proportion
And it doesn’t take
A mathematical genus
To divine its kind
Never the less
As if
Sum
Knew specious
And miss conceive
The gold in mean
Barren resemblance to
The sores of our being
An aesthetic
Of beauty
In nature
And human arts
Desserting know one
The hole slew
To gather as won
And when de-part
Leaving soully
Good will
That is
Grasping the incalculable
After math

This is a geek poem about the golden proportion, or golden ratio.   \frac{a+b}{a} = \frac{a}{b} \equiv \varphiIn mathematics, two quantities are in the golden ratio if their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities. The Greek letter phi is used to signify this value of 1.618. The golden ration holds a special fascination in mathematics, architecture, and art.  The golden ratio is considered to represent beautiful proportion, often found in nature.

In this poem, the relationship between the larger to the smaller is defined beautifully by kindness.  In computer age parlance Kindness 1.618 — a soft wear if you will.  Social justice issues always involve power differentials, and hard ware is meaningless without soft wear.  Without kindness, social relationships will necessarily be trapped in perpetual struggle, with neither the larger or the smaller experiencing the beauty of peace.  Neither justice nor peace is a finely engineered and calculating existence.  Both justice and peace flourish in generosity and grace.  Oftentimes justice comes through those who have a steady experience of peace that creates sacred spaces enough for the hard work of justice to be performed without resentment, growing hurts. Living out of generosity creates conditions conducive to generosity.  Like produces like, sometimes.  Love produces love, eventually.  Though like is more of a product than love.  Love is the way.  Love loves love.  As life produces life, love produces love.  The seamless reciprocity of love perpetuates itself and invites others to participate in love.  There is necessarily always more room to grow and make the circle wider.  For another geeky poem on this theme, see Wading for Godel, and ode to Kurt Godel and his Incompleteness Theorem which mathematically proves that science, ideologies, and philosophy — that is, anything that is based on any set of propositions — is necessarily incomplete and there are always true propositions which always lie beyond the perspective of any given belief system.   Enough geekiness for one day?  You can always simplify.  As the Dalai Lama most succinctly summarized awe, “Kindness is my religion.”  May you find kindness often in your days, and if there is not kindness, perhaps you are the one to bring it.