Friday, December 30, 2005

Character Counts: It's all in your Mind

Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, is one of my heroes. His seminars on ethics are taught worldwide, to individuals and corporations, in the attempt to make us all aware that actions based on positive values and good morals will produce as profitable a result, or better, as lying, cheating, and stealing. It all starts with the intent of the mind.

For my New Year's resolution, I will try to pay more attention to my thoughts. Josephson's daily radio commentaries included this recent one:

"Watch your thoughts because they lead to attitudes;
Watch your attitudes because they lead to words;
Watch your words because they lead to actions;
Watch your actions because they lead to habits;
Watch your habits because they lead to character;
Watch your character because it determines your destiny.

These words not only warn us that badly chosen attitudes, words and actions can darken our future; they also tell us that we can improve every aspect of our lives by asserting conscious control of what we think, say and do. The point is worth emphasizing in a society where so many people suffer from victimitis, a mental disease that produces a self-fulfilling sense of powerlessness. The disease is not confined to the weak and cowardly; it often strikes down strong men and women by disabling their will to resist the spirit-draining impact of personal tragedies.

The primary symptoms of victimitis are hopelessness and helplessness indicated by continual complaints, protests and accusations about what has been done to us. People with victimitis are consumed by a "why me?" attitude and the notion that they are pawns in someone else's chess game.

Powerful emotions like grief, fear, insecurity, anger and frustration are to some extent unavoidable, but they are not insurmountable. Unless we muster the untapped power in all of us to choose our way out of any mental prison, we allow the chains of depression to rob us of our future.

The more helpless we feel, the more important it is to help ourselves. We must understand the difference between acceptance and surrender, and exert the moral courage to choose attitudes and take actions that will make things better. Once we reclaim our power to make things better, happiness becomes possible.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts."


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Malibu, Dec 28, 2005

Malibu Creek meets Pacific Ocean

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Adamson House, Malibu CA

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View South from Adamson House

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Malibu Sunset
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Friday, December 23, 2005

Encinitas, Dec 22, 2005

Self Realization Fellowship Ashram Center
Meditation Gardens
Established by Paramahansa Yogananda 1937

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

How Do I Get a Job Like That?

Big pharma CEOs are the highest paid CEOs.

How hard is this for you to grasp—giant pharmaceutical companies make billions in revenue and profits by selling patent-protected drugs to millions of Americans and millions more overseas. If one of these drugs turns out to be harmful--even after some testing prior to hitting the market that shows the drug will do what it is supposed to without harmful side-effects—then the drug manufacturer can be liable in court claims by the consumer, just like any other item sold, from cars to microwave ovens to childrens’ clothing.

One of the most powerful elected representatives in the nation—elected to uphold the public trust and represent its interest in an oath of office taken upon being elected—Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, a former physician, has added a provision to a military spending bill, releasing from any sort of legal liability, a drug maker whose product causes bodily harm to an individual, under certain circumstances.

Forget about the product being a drug—wouldn’t a car manufacturer be thrilled to know that if the car they made was somehow defective and blew up under certain conditions, that the car-maker was protected from being sued for negligence or otherwise?

Do you think the huge financial resources of the pharmaceutical lobby in Washington, D.C. would be able to get the appropriate amount of money into the pockets of powerful legislators like Bill Frist so that he would take that liability ball and run with it in order to pay back his benefactors? Are we clear on this?

Frist is sleazing into this appropriations bill an item that gives drug makers freedom from lability while they make billions of dollars on their products:

Companies making vaccines to protect against biological agents or pandemic viruses would be shielded from lawsuits, even if they are negligent or reckless, under a provision inserted into a military spending bill by Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader…

…But critics, like Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the language was more far-reaching than Mr. Frist had described.

"The Republican leadership in Congress cut a back room deal to give a massive Christmas bonus to the drug companies," Mr. Kennedy said in a statement…

…The provision would provide immunity from lawsuits to any company that made "countermeasures" - broadly defined as drugs, vaccines or medical devices - to protect Americans against pandemics, epidemics or biological attacks. It would give the secretary of health and human services authority to determine what constituted a pandemic or an epidemic. Critics said that authority, broadly construed, could apply to heart drugs or diabetes, for example, should the secretary declare heart disease or diabetes an epidemic.-- Legal Shield for Vaccine Makers Is Inserted Into Military Bill, NY Times, 12/19/05

Frist is not the enemy, or the problem—our apathy and ignorance is. Nothing is new about this escapade and charade. Just let’s not be asleep while we’re being fucked.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Bush Thinks He’s as Good as Lincoln, But He’s Better Than Nixon

As the Civil War started, in the very beginning of Lincoln's presidential term, a group of "Peace Democrats" proposed a peaceful resolution to the developing Civil War by offering a truce with the South, and forming a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to protect States' rights. The proposal was ignored by the Unionists of the North and not taken seriously by the South. However, the Peace Democrats, also called copperheads by their enemies, publicly criticized Lincoln's belief that violating the U.S. Constitution was required to save it as a whole. With Congress not in session until July, Lincoln assumed all powers not delegated in the Constitution, including the power to suspend habeas corpus. In 1861, Lincoln had already suspended civil law in territories where resistance to the North's military power would be dangerous. In 1862, when copperhead democrats began criticizing Lincoln's violation of the Constitution, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus throughout the nation and had many copperhead democrats arrested under military authority because he felt that the State Courts in the north west would not convict war protesters such as the copperheads. He proclaimed that all persons who discouraged enlistments or engaged in disloyal practices would come under Martial Law.--

The South was lobbing shells at the White House in 1862. In 2005 the US military occupies Iraq almost exactly half-way around the world. President George W. has repeatedly authorized unwarranted wiretap surveillance within the United States, an admission of illegal activity that may be an impeachable violation of the oath of office and the Constitution.

President Bush defended Monday a secretive program that eavesdrops on some international phone calls involving U.S. citizens, saying the United States must be "quick to detect and prevent" possible near-term terrorist attacks.—CNN, 12/19/05

President Bush came out swinging on Snoopgate—he made it seem as if those who didn’t agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaeda—but it will not work. We’re seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.--Jonathan Alter Newsweek, 12/19/05

President Richard Nixon, in 1971, made the same argument as President George W. Bush makes today to justify domestic spying without the need for judicial approval…

…A unanimous Supreme Court (the vote was 8-0, with Justice Rehnquist recusing himself because he was in the Justice Department legal counsel's office when the domestic spying program was formulated), with Justice Powell writing the opinion, in United States v. U.S. District Court, unambiguously rejected any such notion, articulating a clear-cut admonition to those who would diminish the import of the Fourth Amendment by suggesting that domestic spying at the whim of the president would be permitted under any circumstances…

…What is really happening is that the Bush Administration is seeking this moment to reverse the Nixon case and gather unto itself an unrestricted and unreviewable right to engage in domestic spying.--Martin Garbus, Nixon Loses, Bush Wins,, 12/19/05

The question is, where is the House Judiciary Committee, and the would-be ensuing impeachment hearings regarding the many possible Bush offenses against his oath of office and the Constitution?

It took a while, but by the time things were this bad off under Nixon, the House Judiciary Committee hearings were revved well up. So far, the democratic leadership (if there is one?) needs to come out of “stand-by” mode and do its mandated duty—call to account the law-breakers who admit their wrongdoing as if throwing down a glove for a duel.

As I’ve noted in this blog, there would come a time when the ultimate skeleton key would pop out, and bring Bush and his bunch down—admitting to a federal crime, such as repeatedly approving illegal domestic bugging in blatant violation of protected 4th-Amendment rights—this is it. Bring the hearings on.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Citizens of the World Unite!

How many times will I have to write on this blog about the benefit of immigrants to the economy and general welfare of our country? In a typical mutually positive email exchange with Carolyn Kaye of, I pointed out that there is evidence of benefits from immigration that is being presented to the state of California. Carolyn’s reaction was practical if not resigned:

This country was built on immigration. We owe all of our energy and
maverick spirit to immigration. But my skeptical side (which is gigantic) has to ask: When have facts ever been allowed to overcome emotion?

That’s a tough argument, and from the friendly side. Here are some facts, and ideas, from a column in the Los Angeles Times:

…by deflating numerous myths about illegal immigration it [report prepared by the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy] underscores the genuine issues and points us toward the best policies to address them. Chief among its findings is this: Immigration, legal or illegal, while imposing net fiscal costs on this state, produces a net economic benefit for the country.-- MICHAEL HILTZIK / GOLDEN STATE, Los Angeles Times, 12/15/05

You’ll really have to read the entire article for the inside “emmes.” Rest assured, whatever prejudices you had about “illegal immigration” prior to reading this article, you will have to think about again, in order to justify your convictions with the facts. Our relatives, friends, and neighbors, who are fearful of the incoming tide of immigrants to this country, legal or documented, are not well informed about reality. And the demagogue politicians who would try to scare us into thinking that terrorists and criminals are flooding through our borders are also misinformed.

The fact is simple: we are a nation of immigrants, that is where the strength of America lies, and we must embrace this strength for our future, because that is reality. We must adopt programs to organize this influx of immigrants, rather than opposing it as if it were a problem.

Get a grip, as the world becomes smaller.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Childrens' Park, Laguna Niguel, Dec 14, 2005

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Laguna Niguel, Dec 14, 2005

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San Juan Capistrano, Dec 14, 2005

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Monday, December 12, 2005

How to Play Bridge

"We were trying to avoid information overload, which I don't think serves people well either."-- California's deputy director of medical care services, Stan Rosenstein, on why a state plan to finance drug benefits for disabled seniors was not publicized more vigorously. Los Angeles Times, 12/12/05
No one wants “information overload,” so we can be thankful that Merck withheld information in a 2000 study that Vioxx caused more heart attacks than was being reported. These drug companies and the government officials they help keep in power don’t want us to clutter our brains with extraneous details. They are looking out for our welfare, don’t you know.

Nearly 1 million poor and frail California seniors who will be transferred automatically into the Medicare prescription program Jan. 1 can get transitional help from the state if private insurers under the new plan do not cover their particular medications.

But no one has notified those eligible of the state's policy — which provides up to a 100-day supply of medicines they are currently taking, including expensive name brands — and they only have until Dec. 31 to request and receive the medication.--Los Angeles Times, 12/12/05
There is some suggestion that in the zeal of Governor Arnold’s budget tightening efforts, there was a hope that the needy seniors would avoid dipping into this $100 million well and thus deplete California’s coffers just when things were starting to look a little better for the treasury. If an elderly person can’t make up his or her mind where to get cheap drugs, why should regular taxpaying citizens foot the bill for them to get their prescriptions in the interim. Everyone’s got to pull their own weight, like Bill O’Reilly pummels his listeners every day. Otherwise we’re nothing but a bunch of pinko commies bleeding the till needlessly.

Or, someone forgot to push the PR buttons hard enough and seniors just haven’t gotten the word. Until today’s front page numero uno story addressing the issue of this 100 day state-paid-for drug bridge for seniors.

Stan Rosenstein’s going to be old one day. I wonder if he’ll be able to stand up to the “information overload” he’ll probably demand then.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Senator McCarthy died today.

I was a senior in high school when he tried to win the democratic nomination for President of the United States. Lyndon Johnson was about to run for a second term, and he was pretty much commanding the Vietnam War like Bush is today. Only at that time, there were 3 times as many troops in Vietnam as are in Iraq now, and hundreds of GI’s were being killed every month. The economy was in great shape and other than this huge problem of war in Southeast Asia, which Americans didn’t understand at all, things were going well for America.

McCarthy was the champion of those of us who saw the Vietnam debacle as a mistake and as a disaster. As the senator from Minnesota got his word out, his followers became multitudes. Johnny Carson had politicians on his show periodically, and Gene McCarthy was making enough noise that he earned a venue on that late night staple of the day, “The Tonight Show.”

My dad’s stepfather’s brother (following so far?) was the head of Sherry-Lehman Wines in New York, Sam Aaron. I never knew the guy, but Charlie, my dad’s stepdad, always said if I ever needed tickets for the Tonight Show in New York, Sam would get them for me. Today, if you want tickets to see Jay Leno in Burbank on the “Tonight Show,” you write a few weeks in advance and you wait in line all afternoon and you get in—my family has done that.

In the 1960’s, a ticket to Johnny Carson’s show was not to be had—you had to write in a year or more in advance, and waiting in line at Rockefeller Center to go to the 61st floor studio in a crowded elevator…for free, you get what you get.

I found out that Eugene McCarthy was going to be on the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” in a week, so I called Charlie, who called Sam, and I got my 2 seats and drove to Manhattan from Hartford—3 hours in traffic—and saw my anti-Vietnam War hero tell his tale. For those of us willing to stay up past 11:30 at night, they would see the tape of the show on TV.

He’s still my hero. When Bobby Kennedy finally hitched his campaign wagon to the anti-Vietnam War movement because the handwriting was on the wall, and McCarthy was already embarrassing the hell out of Johnson, the incumbent, McCarthy wouldn’t give in and bow to Kennedy’s campaign. He should have, for the sake of the cause, but he had worked so hard and so long to get out his message, and Kennedy was co-opting that message with his celebrity-candidacy, and McCarthy’s ego wouldn’t cave. Well, no-one’s perfect.

The memories of McCarthy and his campaign seem like yesterday to me. His passing reminds us of his great work, and how much it applies to the events of our time right now.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Wolfowitz in Sheep’s Clothing

Wolfowitz Says Iraq War Might Not Have Occurred if United States knew Hussein Had No WMD—NuclearthreatInitiative.org12/8/05

That’s not exactly what the article associated with the headline says:

“I'm not sure based on the evidence we know now that we could have been absolutely convinced that there was no danger, absolutely no danger,” Wolfowitz, a chief promoter of the invasion who is now president of the World Bank, said at the National Press Club. “If somebody could have given you a Lloyd’s of London guarantee that weapons of mass destruction would not possibly be used, one would have contemplated much more support for internal Iraqi opposition and not having the United States take the job on the way we did.”NTI

“Internal Iraqi opposition.” I am not a third-grader. My daughter is in the third grade and she is quite willing in her innocence to grant a liar some leeway. I am not.

Wolfowitz is now head of the World Bank; he was one of the notorious neocons who masterminded the Iraq invasion scenario from day one.

From 1989 to 1993, Dr. Wolfowitz served as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in charge of the 700-person defense policy team that was responsible to Secretary Dick Cheney for matters concerning strategy, plans, and policy. During this period Secretary Wolfowitz and his staff had major responsibilities for the reshaping of strategy and force posture at the end of the Cold War. Under his leadership, the Policy Staff played a major role in reviewing war plans for the Gulf War, and developing and executing plans that successfully raised more than $50 billion in Allied financial support for the war and prevented Iraq from opening a second front with Israel.—White House web site

The loyal support (for Bush policy) of an old friend (Wolfowitz) speaking out on behalf of “cooler heads” (hindsight) is the impetus behind Wolfowitz’s chicken shit remarks about “yes WMD or no WMD.” In fact, the vengeance and recrimination of the neocons against their old anti-Iran ally Sadam-turned-renegade is what the Iraq business has been all about from the end of the Gulf War to the Iraq campaign. The smart press knows it, the politicians in DC know it, and only the American public doesn’t have a clue because they don’t have time to follow to nuances while they’re trying to make ends meet all day long. The Bush guys depend on this apathy to maintain power.

Why don’t we all wise up and call these guys what they are—greedy wanton criminals. It works on the corporate raiders, like Adelphia and Enron--why not on our corrupt elected officials?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Terrorists Get Funding Through Bush Errors

WASHINGTON - The former Sept. 11 commission gave dismal grades Monday to the federal government's efforts to shore up national security and prevent another terror attack on the United States.—AP,MSNBC, 12/05/05
Once again it is clear our government, under the inept leadership of George W. Bush, has put all of its priorities in the wrong order. The mega-fortune funneled into the Iraq campaign, and away from fighting terrorists on the international level, has put every American, if not everyone in the world, in further jeopardy of a terrorist attack.

These groups of cells, who recruit in nations around the globe, who organize for the sake of causing mayhem and chaos to innocents, need a flow of funding to keep the engine running. This monetary stream is coming increasingly from internet scams that are bringing in untold amounts of cash.

No country is immune from cybercrime, which includes corporate espionage, child pornography, stock manipulation, extortion and piracy, said Valerie McNiven, who advises the U.S. Treasury on cybercrime.

"Last year was the first year that proceeds from cybercrime were greater than proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs, and that was, I believe, over $105 billion," McNiven told Reuters.

"Cybercrime is moving at such a high speed that law enforcement cannot catch up with it."

…Asked if there was evidence of links between the funding of terrorism and cybercrime, McNiven said: "There is evidence of links between them. But what's more important is our refusal or failure to create secure systems, we can do it but it's an issue of costs."—Reuters, Yahoo, 11/28/05

“…An issue of costs.” Well there it is, right in your face: Jeff Levy quoted this story on his radio show about computers and added an anecdote about the following phishing caper. “Phishing” is the attempt by an on line criminal to trick the unsuspecting surfer into thinking the personal information being requested is coming from a legitimate source, such as an individual’s bank or credit card company. A new scam came about last week involving the IRS—phony IRS web site, that is—emailing individuals that they were due a refund but that they had to provide their banking information. This may sound like an easy hoax to spot, but when the web user is faced with a legitimate-looking web site, which may actually be an exact version of the IRS web site only with the capability of re-directing the inputted information to an off-shore computer, that web user may succumb to the scam.

In fact, thousands of people have readily plugged in their social security numbers upon request to what they thought was their bank or any institution they do business with, and the information went directly to foreign sources who then can access that person’s bank account and withdraw money before being detected. Now it is becoming obvious that some of the $105 billion in cyber stealing is helping to fund the terrorist agenda.

The American taxpayer should know that US money is going to waste, fighting a non-existent war on terror in some places in the world, while in others, including right here at home in the IRS, the capability is there to stop terrorists from undetected stealing, but the Bush administration doesn’t know enough to spend the money to make the effort.

The 9/11 Commission came to the right conclusion in giving failing grades to the Bush government effort to quell terrorism, but even they might not know how right they were.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

No Vaccine for AIDS

…World AIDS Day was marked around the globe Thursday.

About 40 million people worldwide are now infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. About 3 million of them are expected to die of AIDS this year.—CNN 12/1/05

Over ten years ago one of the brightest immunologists on the planet told me there would never be a vaccine for AIDS. I’m no fan of vaccines for many reasons, not the least of which is that they cause untold physical damage despite whatever help they may offer. However, I was intrigued by this learned person’s blanket statement, since he was in the business of research into the human immune system, and vaccines were a part of his study.

He made it very simple for my lay understanding of immunity, germs, and AIDS. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome—AIDS—is the breakdown of the immune system’s ability to produce the various factors for antibodies which fight germs that humans are exposed to, serious and common, lethal and annoying, every day all our lives. This “deficiency” opens the body to sickness, complications, and ultimately, death.

Vaccines introduce toxins into the human immune system, usually in an altered form from the original germ so as not to cause the illness, in order to “trick” the system into producing the appropriate antibodies to fight the real germ if ever exposed to it. That’s the theory at least. The immunologist explained to me that since AIDS is the lack of immunity, a vaccine to mimic the mechanism that caused that lack would be almost the logical opposite of what a vaccine is supposed to do, which definitely is not to cause a lack of immunity. The assumption that HIV virus is the cause of AIDS is also not so straightforward, he explained. Therefore, developing a vaccine to protect against getting the HIV virus would not necessarily work in a one-to-one causal reaction.

My next question was what could be done on a general health care level to protect against the complications of AIDS if there could be no vaccine, and as yet there is no cure? He said there would be developments through the years that would reduce the effect of having AIDS on the system that would make the individual virtually “cured,” if not actually free from the disease itself. He said it would be like having a cancer that was in total remission. But he insisted there probably would be no cure, and certainly no vaccine, for AIDS. His remission scenario carried great hope in that light.

Now when I see the media hyping progress towards an AIDS vaccine, I wonder who gets the positive benefit from this kind of empty PR. Pharmaceutical companies looking for grants—half of their R & D money comes from government grants—could get a boost from the notion of a lead to a vaccine for AIDS. And it gives the press something to talk about.

The development of ways to diminish the effects of AIDS is a more likely road to helping millions of people afflicted by this grave disease, based on my immunologist-friend’s discussion. That methodology doesn’t sell newspapers, and it doesn’t boost the bottom line of big pharma.

But it’s the truth.