Sufficient Wisdom

“It takes a husbandman with spade and hoe

To teach the learned, who profess to know…”

       from the poem “Sufficient Wisdom” in the eponymous book of poems by Father Arthur MacGillivray S.J., 1943, Bruce Humphries, Inc., Boston

 

Robert Frost and Father MacGillivray on right

Someone once told me that part of all of us remains nineteen for the rest of our lives, which I think is true. For many in my generation, that time of greatest disillusionment and the shock of early adulthood occurred in 1968 in the terrible three months of the assassinations of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy. For other unfortunates, the amber in which they stuck like fossils was the “summer of love” and Woodstock in 1969. For me, at only seventeen years old, it was 1963 outside the book depository in Dallas[i], and my freshman year at Boston College. On the afternoon of the assassination after the university cancelled all the classes, we drifted in the streets of an almost silent Boston, stunned like everyone else. Small eclectic groups of neighbors and strangers gathered around car radios or televisions in homes, bars and shop windows following the events in disbelief.

There are much happier memories though of that year after high school. Father MacGillivray with whom I studied for my first two semesters is one of them[ii]. I was recently reminded of him through a conversation with my brothers about E.B. White, author of beloved children’s books like “Charlotte’s Weband “Stuart Little,” and one of the most accomplished essayists of the American mid twentieth century. We studied White with Father MacGillivray, especially his “Elements of Style” and an extensive analysis of his definitive long essay about the Big Apple, “Here is New York[iii].” To say he opened worlds and gifted us with an irreplaceable formation previously unimagined would be a woeful understatement.

Before we started, we were assigned a freshmen summer reading list, including Thomas Merton’s “Seven Story Mountain,” James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and John Knowles’ “A Separate Peace.” There was a fourth book, I think, which eludes me.

He was somewhat dramatic with a trained theatrical voice he would employ to great effect doing readings of plays, essays and poetry. On winter mornings, he would sweep around campus in a red lined black cloak greeting all with an ironic smile, sparkling eyes and a friendly nod. We read and analyzed in some depth Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven,” which we memorized and recited. I still remember parts of it. “I fled Him down the nights and days; I fled Him down the arches of the years: I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter…” .

We studied among many works “Macbeth,” Robert Frost’s “Death of the Hired Man” and the “Road Not Taken.”  We spent almost a month on T.S. Eliot’s[iv] “The Hollow Men,” “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock,” “Ash Wednesday” and finally “The Wasteland,” many of the allusions in which were wasted on me.

“He seemed to know that all the choicest fruits

Mature by early tugging at the roots,

That once the earth is clear of stick and stone,

‘Tis wisdom to leave well enough alone.” 

          from the poem “Sufficient Wisdom” as above.

 

After a series of emails with my brothers and sister, I grew curious and regretted not having done research earlier. Father MacGillivray had published his own poems in 1943 in his book “Sufficient Wisdom,”  which he never mentioned to us. I learned he had exchanged letters with Eliot and knew Robert Frost well from a series of lectures Frost delivered at the college, facts also previously unknown to me. I found a picture (shown above) of him with Mr. Frost cutting an 82nd birthday cake, which was Frost’s last. The Boston College archives has a book left to it in 2000, when Father MacGillivray died: a first edition of Frost’s inscribed to him and with some lines in Robert Frost’s own blocky hand printing. At first the book generated great excitement, as it was thought the short stanza was an unpublished Frost poem, however it turned out to have been from his earlier work, “Kitty Hawk”:

 

“But God’s own descent

Into flesh was meant

As a demonstration

That the supreme merit

Lay in risking spirit

In substantiation.”

 

Father MacGillivray’s own book was long out of print, but I was able to locate a used copy through Abe Books in a small bookstore in Ohio, which I promptly bought for $12.50. In wonderful condition with the original dust cover, a first (and probably only) edition, it found its way to Ohio from the library of Admiral Richard Byrd to whom it was inscribed by the author. He met the famous explorer  and Medal  of Honor winner on a train trip to Connecticut in 1956 six months before Byrd’s own death in March of 1957. The inscription in Father MacGillivray’s strong cursive was on the inside flyleaf: “For Admiral Richard E. Byrd with grateful remembrance of our train-meeting on your way to Bridgeport – October 19, 1956, Fr. Arthur MacGillivray, S.J.”  I fantasize a brilliant serendipitous conversation between the two, wiling away the monotony of a three-hour train ride.

 

His poems are full of tree and farming metaphors, of seasons and weather and nature’s gratuitous order and beauty. I will persist as time allows to learn why. I marveled at some of them, harkening back vivid memories five decades old. Father M was a miner of minds. He cunningly and carefully placed his charges and detonated them with perfect timing. When the noise quieted and the dust cleared, he exposed clean veins of insight in the ego encrusted bedrock of our seventeen-year-old selves. Veins that have yet to be exhausted.

A small treasure of a book that I never knew existed. Makes 2020 already a good year.

 

“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”

–Thomas Merton

 

[i] I once wrote a blog post on the Kennedy assassination. November 23, 1963, if you have interest. The same day was also the date of the deaths within hours of Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis. That coincidence was the subject of a book I enjoyed by Dr. Peter Kreeft, who is a longtime professor of philosophy at Boston College: Between Heaven and Hell, A Dialogue Somewhere Beyond Death. Here’s a link: https://www.amazon.com/Between-Heaven-Hell-Somewhere-Kennedy-ebook/

[ii] The English Literature course with Father M was three of the eighteen credits that were considered full time. For me in addition were a lab biology intensive (my initial major), French, Old Testament theology, Logic as a prelude to Epistemology and Pre-calculus/calculus.

[iii] https://www.amazon.com/Here-New-York-B-White-ebook/

[iv] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/t-s-eliot

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Pharming for Profit Part Three

“First you make people believe they have a problem, and then you sell them the solution. That’s how advertising works. Every snake oil salesman knows that.” Oliver Markus Malloy, Bad Choices Make Good Stories – Finding Happiness in Los Angeles[i]

In 1951 Margaret Sanger had a dream and met her willing partner Dr. Gregory Pincus. They solicited funding from some of the biggest foundations in the world by riding the perfect wave driven by three powerful winds: the large group of  post WWII women in the workforce who wanted to pursue careers, the feverish concern of an  influential lobby about population growth and eugenics [ii](to rid the world of less than perfect people and undesirable breeders – minorities and the disabled). The Rockefellers, Ford Foundation, Shell Oil and others signed on; Sanger and Pincus had the money to build their wagon.

Fortunately for the entrepreneurial Pincus, the Federal Drug Administration of the late fifties was an underfunded paper tiger.[iii] When Pincus had his prototype, they needed some testing. One of their enabling funders, Katharine McCormick, International Harvester heiress, wrote to Sanger at the time that they needed a “cage of ovulating females to experiment with.” Sanger wrote back that they had their cage amongst the poorest of the poor in Puerto Rico: uninformed and exploited guinea pigs for a dangerous drug. They tested their new wonder drug on 132 unsuspecting women in Puerto Rico in 1956 who were not told they were part of a test, just that this magic would help them to not have children.  Five of these women died and were buried hastily without an autopsy. As a result of their very limited testing they got their miracle pill Enovid a quick approval just before the thalidomide controversy erupted. A drug that has grown to millions of users and billions in sales that is taken by some daily for decades and may take 8 to 12 years for side effects to show up was tested for twelve months on 132 subjects with negative results ignored or minimized to the regulators. With millions of users currently taking the Pill, more than 132 die each year from blood clot induced stroke and heart attacks

By the time the many years of the Nelson hearings in the Senate started in 1967 that exposed the dangers of the Pill, the suppression of evidence, smearing attacks on those presenting it and a tsunami of cultural influences from the so called Sexual Revolution made arresting the growth of its use impossible. But wait, of course, the modern pill has a lower content of the synthetic estrogen that affects almost every biological system in the human body, right? True enough, and Bayer the manufacturer of the most widely used versions of the Pill, Yaz and Yazmin, has settled over 18,000 lawsuits for over $2 billion for blood clotting incidents for Yaz, some of them fatal.[iv]

“This is the first time in medicine’s history the drug industry has placed at our disposal a powerful, disease-producing chemical for use in the healthy rather than the sick.” Dr. Herbert Ratner, Senate “Nelson Pill Hearings,” 1970

Big Pharma’s spin machine has never been more effective than in covering their trail (and posterior anatomy) concerning the dangers of the Pill. Their political and media allies, the deep pockets of Planned Parenthood and their bedfellows in the medical profession (who have a vested interest in their own backsides) all work in harmony to keep this under many wraps.  This is far too limited a venue for any comprehensive expose of the proven health risks, so I recommend if you have interest (are a women or love a woman who may be taking this stuff) that you read investigative reporter Mike Gaskins’ excellent book published last year, “In The Name of The Pill.”[v] If you have interest in the cultural impact of the Pill, a brilliant resource was written by Mary Eberstadt[vi], “Adam and Eve after the Pill.”

Since estrogen is a powerful hormone that affects virtually very function and system in the body, it is not a surprise that a wide variety of potential side effects exist. Many of them are debilitating or life threatening.  A brief bullet point list may give you pause based on many studies published in Journal of the American Medical Association, Lancet and other prestigious medical publications:

  • Estrogen based oral contraceptives are listed as a Group 1 (definite) carcinogen by the World Health Organization.[vii] Especially breast cancer.
  • Known in many studies to:[viii]
    • Increase the risk of thrombosis (blood clots that cause strokes, heart attacks and death).
    • Higher risk of diabetes and arterial sclerosis.
    • Higher risk of lupus and other autoimmune diseases.
    • Increased migraines.
    • Increased risk of genetic damage.
    • Risk of permanent infertility. The lining of the uterus ages at almost twice the rate of non-pill users and changes occur in the cervix as well. Not to count the sterilizing effects of STD’s, which unsurprisingly have exploded since the advent of the Pill.
    • Increased risk of multiple sclerosis.
    • Increased risk of Crohn’s disease.
    • Higher incidence of depression along with a decrease in libido and a higher suicide rate.

This toxicity is handed out to single women, teenagers, married women and anybody who walks through the door to maintain career paths, limit or prevent childbearing and even to treat premenstrual cramping and acne. The Pill is prescribed to kids with or without notice to or the agreement of parents because as a sacrament of progressive ideology, they can be prescribed without telling or even over the objection of parents. Some parents, of course, fear an unplanned pregnancy that could short circuit their aspiring scholar’s career path and seek these chemicals for their children. How many are aware of the risks?  However, a teenager can get this stuff almost as readily as they get a package of Skittles at the pharmacy.

Possibly the best is yet to come and has already shown its effects on the water supply. Millions of women taking the Pill urinate into wastewater, and the minuteness of the passed through unmetabolized estrogen molecules bypasses filters in older treatment plants and gets into the aquifer, streams and rivers. Fish fertility[ix] and human male sperm count has been drastically altered as a result of higher levels of synthetic estrogen in our water. One study showed human male sperm count has dropped by half since 1973 and the wide use of the pill. Synthetic estrogen as found in the pill has been shown to make profound biological changes at levels 50 to 100 times less than natural estrogen. These are extraordinarily powerful chemicals.

Please before I get angry emails and comments, I invite you to do your own research, get the documents from the Nelson hearings, or read some books on the subject. The perfect multiple partnership of the profits of drug companies, the medical professionals who receive perks from big pharma and keep their patients contented with magic pills, the ideology of woman’s rights and even the environmental advocates of population control all conspire against the real health of women. And men.

“You cannot long knock any natural system out of balance without doing some harm – whether it shows up immediately or years later. Furthermore, many of these pill-caused metabolic disturbances are progressive. The longer a woman stays on the pill, the more her laboratory tests are altered.” From Barbara Seamans – Nelson hearings.

[i] Picture is from the Cincinnati Opera’s production of Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore,” (Potion of love) Wild West interpretation.

[ii] Read older posts from this blog, Maggie 1 and Maggie 2 about Margaret Sanger. Or read Angela Frank’s terrific biography of the “hero of Planned Parenthood”: Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy

[iii] This changed in the early sixties when the thalidomide disaster that swept Europe and to a much lesser degree in the United States precipitated a vastly more robust agency. Only the heroics of Dr. Frances Kelsey at the old FDA prevented the American approval of the morning sickness prevention drug that caused thousands of birth defects and babies without arms and legs. She was slandered repeatedly by the drug industry and their political allies for refusing to sign off on thalidomide.

[iv] See: https://www.drugwatch.com/yaz/settlements/

[v] In The Name of The Pill, 2019, Mike Gaskins

[vi] Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, Mary Eberstadt, Ignatius Press, 2012

[vii] https://althealthworks.com/13353/26-carcinogens-according-to-the-world-health-organization-you-need-to-know-aboutyelena/

[viii] Aware of Mark Twain’s precautionary remark that “there are lies, damn lies and statistics,” I’ll point out the typical defense of the spin masters. While those with concerns will state accurately that the risk for clot induced stroke and heart attack is doubled in women taking the Pill, defenders will state that double the risk really means increasing the incidence from 1 in 10,000 to 2-4 per 10,000, which is also true. How do we interpret such radically opposed presentation of the same facts? How about this? With thirteen million Pill users just in the U.S. that tiny increase in risk translates to an additional 3,900 women a year stricken. 3,900 mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters and sisters. Acceptable risk? Sure, no medication is without risk they’ll tell us. Unless, perhaps, you know and love one of them.

[ix] One USGS survey in the Shenandoah found 20% of male fish growing eggs in their testes and much evidence with the feminization of the male and a radical male and female imbalance, threatening to wipe out whole species in some local environs.

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Privacy

“If you read someone else’s diary, you get what you deserve.”  David Sedaris

At the end of the year, the good folks at Alphabet kindly shared my Google history for 2019 with me, and Google Maps sent me the link to every place I had been.[i] In detail. I drill down and follow a walk around the wildlife refuge or a ride to Dummer’s Beach Campground in Maine practically minute by minute with every stop, lingering moment or digression along the way. The good folks at Amazon Kindle showed me how to access my reading history on any of their devices or apps. Page turns, how long I typically hung out on a page or a paragraph, what caught my attention or sent me off on a related search; the words I looked up, and those I didn’t. Google let me know every place I had been while sitting in my home and touring the web. They obligingly tell me exactly how to delete my browsing or reading or traveling history, so I will not be able to find it. Reassuring as that may seem to me, they will have not lost the trail. Our ubiquitous Smart TVs, wired homes, food processors, refrigerators, autos, Alexa genies, Facebook likes and dislikes help accrue our unique data trail that is dogged as if with trained bloodhounds which pick up scents in parts per million with exponentially more sensitive noses than mere human ones. The tracker hounds scour the hints with their autodidact algorithms, digging, digging, sniffing, finding.

The so helpful convenience of an always on phone gathers it all: should we want directions, or an elusive half remembered factoid, or something to eat; they will store every scrap, then load it all up into massive redundant servers in remote locations, protected like nuclear waste sites waiting for inevitable leaks. Along with everyone else’s trails: your movements, internet searches, left or right clicks, intentional or not, where you spent extra time, what you read, what branches of knowledge or information you explored, products you bought or considered, texts and emails saved and deleted, hopes, dreams, fantasies, curiosities. Everything. Every moment. Wherever you were or hoped to be. How many times do we need to mention something in a personal email or click over briefly to a link in futile hope of secrecy, then be inundated for days with related ads or invitations before we grasp this?  

What was once reserved for an omniscient Being, now is in megabytes and relentlessly analyzed, mined, sold and exploited for gain by a constantly evolving, learning, metastasizing artificial intelligence with almost limitless resources. Omniscience as merchandise. All to benefit us, to convenience us, to keep us in the loop, to “customize our experience.”

Privacy is myth if you are or ever have been connected. And who hasn’t?  The horse has fled as if from a fire, the barn door is not just open but missing – gone, a void.

“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” Louis Brandeis (dissent in Olmstead vs U.S., 1928)

But what is privacy exactly? Everyone has their own translation. Privacy can mean freedom from restraint, license to do what we want to do free from scrutiny. Privacy has been construed in a wide range: from polite decorum and merely keeping private conversations closed off from the eager ears of gossips to graphic and addictive pornography accessible to young people or even to subverting the law such as those that once attempted to regulate abortion.[ii]

While we hold privacy dear and most dear for ourselves, we take hidden pleasure in the exposure of the titillating shame of others, especially disgraced heroes or enemies. Think Jeffrey Epstein. Few of us are truly unburdened from schadenfreude[iii]. Privacy as a shield to do what is shameful or privacy ripped away as a weapon to destroy another person’s reputation. Clearly the privacy we all desire is not always welcome when contemplating the juicy embarrassment of another.

Is the cloak of privacy or its loss a simple thing? Perhaps not. Can conscience be muted with privacy indulged too long? Perhaps so. We need to take great care in the shadows.

“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice. (She was so much surprised, that for the moment, she quite forgot how to speak English).”               Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass


[i] No doubt at the behest of Alphabet’s army of lawyers to cover their backsides of liability for selling oceans of data collected on their customers for large profits. It is possible to shut off such tracking, but how can one ever truly determine that? There are many articles on this. Here’s just one: https://www.businessinsider.com/what-does-google-know-about-me-search-history-delete-2019-10

[ii] In the much debated Roe V Wade decision and its successors that prohibited any state law restricting abortion for any reason or no reason, the basis of the decision was a ‘right to privacy’ not found explicitly in the Constitution, but relying mostly on prior decisions such as Griswold V State of Connecticut.  In Griswold, Justice Douglas “discovered” (some would say created out of whole cloth) a right to privacy based on ‘penumbras’ (from the Latin paene umbra, meaning “almost a shadow”) and ‘emanations’ of other explicitly delineated constitutional rights. A reliance on such a dubious contrivance, previously undiscovered in 176 years of jurisprudence, allows almost anything. Judicial activism in service of an ideology at its most blatant.

[iii] Schadenfreude is the terrific German word for taking joy from the suffering of our enemies.

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‘Lead Kindly Light’ In a Culture of Contempt

“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’ encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.” St. John Henry Newman

Two of the most effective couple’s therapists in the country have saved thousands of marriages in their careers. They watch new clients most carefully for signs. One as it turns out is the most troubling to them. Observed as one spouse talks about the other, divorce is reliably predicted within a year or two if not healed, if not forgiven. Not screaming or arms crossed silence, not tears or obscenity, but derisive eye rolling is the sign of the most significant damage.

Dr. John Gottman and his wife Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman have been in the forefront of studies and counseling for couples for decades. Cofounders of The Gottman Institute, they have created “The Art and Science of Love” weekend workshops for couples and have written bestselling books on the subject, including “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” and “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail.” Dr. Gottman was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential Therapists of the past quarter-century.

They have written much on the four signs of trouble that must be remedied [i]in a relationship: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. The most destructive of these is contempt with eye rolling its signature. Contempt is a deadly habit in any relationship and the most dreadful communication threshold to cross. Once crossed, it is most difficult to cross back. Memories and pain are soul deep when our very humanity has been violated, when the basic dignity and respect due to us as human beings has been nullified by the person we ought most be able to trust and to whom we have made ourselves most vulnerable and intimate. Our humanity and personhood have been denied. Contempt is chilly disgust, not hot anger. At least with anger, there is emotion and a sense of importance to the argument. With contempt, even the ashes grow cold.

“Teach not thy lip such scorn, for it was made for kissing, lady, not for contempt.” Richard III, William Shakespeare

Gustave Dore illustration for Dante’s Inferno

Dante in his “Inferno” depicts not fire at the deepest level of Hell, but ice, and the immensely powerful Satan frozen in it. Just as contempt signals the death of a marriage, contempt in our public discourse and relationships signals a death as well. A visit to Facebook or other social media makes it apparent that political enemies rarely engage in debate, civil or otherwise. The opposition from either side of the divide does not hate those with whom they disagree; they de-humanize them; they despise them. They are not wrong or ill-informed or capable of learning or worthy of an attempt to teach them; they are stupid and evil: “morons” or “Nazis” with no room for discussion. And it is ripping us and our culture apart.

In Dr. Robert George’s book, “Conscience and Its Enemies[ii]  he describes three pillars of any decent society:

  • Respect for the human person – the individual human being and his dignity.
  • Institution of the family, indispensable for modeling, teaching and training decent behavior.
  • A fair and effective system of law and government.[iii]

The most fundamental of these is respect for the human person. Absent that, neither the family nor government on its own can make up the forfeited ground. Once respect and regard for one another is lost, the great divide and breakdown of the culture are inevitable. As Dr. George wrote, “When liberal democratic regimes go awry, it is often because a utilitarian ethic reduces the human person to a means rather than an end to which other things, including the systems and institutions of the law, education and the economy, are means.” Disdain for one another expressed publicly reduces those with whom we disagree to dehumanized objects of that contempt. Our political divide so often lamented is a trailing indicator.

A paper in 2019 entitled “Lethal Mass Partisanship” and reported in the New York Times found that 42% of people in both parties view the opposition as “downright evil” and 20% in both parties believe the opposition members “lack the traits to be considered fully human — they behave like animals.” 20% of Democrats and 16% of Republicans think on occasion that the country “would be better off if large numbers of the opposition died.” Finally, “What if the opposing party won the 2020 election. How much do you feel violence would be justified then?” 18.3% of Democrats and 13.8% of Republicans said “violence would be justified on a scale from “a little to a lot.” Clearly this is not a passing social media trend.

We hear often about a lack of civility in our debates. Mere civility is too feeble a contraption by a wide gap — timid and insufficient to overcome outright disregard for the humanity of our political rival. What can be done? What must be done if this great experiment of ours is to survive?  

 “Man has often lost his way, but modern man has lost his address.” G.K. Chesterton

Dr. Arthur Brooks, social scientist and former President of the American Enterprise Institute, now teaches courses at Harvard about loving one’s enemies as the solution. From the left or the right makes no difference. In case that advice seems familiar, as old as Scripture, well, it is.  He converted to Catholicism when he was sixteen on a family visit to Mexico City and the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Dr. Brooks is a team member of Bishop Robert Baron’s “Word on Fire Institute.” For many years, he has consulted with and is a friend of the Dalai Lama, who helped inform his worldview. His recommendation is both urgent and kind. He is better speaking for himself in this short PBS interview with Judy Woodruff. Better yet is this longer talk he recently gave which outlines some of the nuts and bolts of his suggested solutions from his book, “Love Your Enemies.”[iv]

As the cliché states, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, and rare is the person who has not piled on during a social media exchange, including me. Let’s throw the flag for late hits at ourselves and try to do just a bit better. A simple and elegant commitment we could all make suggested by Dr. Brooks is similar to what the Gottman team recommends for couples headed for divorce. Before acting out on those cutting impulses, do the following: make five positive comments about the other person before you hammer them and engage that oh so justified self-righteous indignation.

We find after the five building-up remarks about what’s good in the other person, our vindictive lower self will slink back into its corner and sleep. In fact, one or two will probably put the monster away. Now finding five positive things about Nancy Pelosi or Donald Trump may be a bridge too far for you, but presumably the social media friend who posts about them must have friend history with us sufficient to be able to comment on the reasons they are friends in the first place. Say a prayer for the politicians, but good will towards your on-line or personal contact should be easy to find. If you can’t, keep your counsel to yourself. After all, no one, ever, has had their opinion changed on a gut ideological or political issue by a Facebook post.

If five positive comments seems too formulaic and simplistic, we could all commit to an alternative: look in the mirror. If who looks back at you is without fault, unfailingly brilliant and error free, then jump right on that post and wail away. Of course, anyone espousing such dangerous drivel is an idiot, a moron, in league with the devil or at least Hitler; they deserve the snarkiest, most clever and condescending blow you can deliver. If however you see a human being in the mirror engaged in their own desperate struggle known only to themselves and their most intimate friends, then pull up and find some solace or positive comment to let the others know that you know they are human beings doing the best they can to understand and to cope with a confusing world.

Dante’s hell may have Satan fixed in ice, but he is busy at work, cunning, and he picks his targets with telling effect.

“It can never be too strongly emphasized that the crisis which Western man is undergoing today is a metaphysical one; there is probably no more dangerous illusion than that of imagining that some readjustment of social or institutional conditions could suffice of itself to appease a contemporary sense of disquiet which rises, in fact, from the very depths of man’s being.” Gabriel Marcel, Man Against Mass Society, (St. Augustine’s Press, 2008)


[i] The Four Horsemen: https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-criticism-contempt-defensiveness-and-stonewalling/

[ii] Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. “Conscience and Its Enemies” Dr. Robert George, ISI Books, Paperback Edition 2016

[iii] Benjamin Franklin quipped that democracy (without checks and balances) was two wolves and a sheep sitting down to discuss what’s for dinner. Checks and balances are not primarily found in the Constitution but in the human heart and human friendship.  Dr. Gerard Mundy wrote last year: “Writing in 1957, Russell Kirk argued that love of, and attachment to, community are native to the American spirit. ‘Our city, township, and county governments; our flourishing voluntary associations; our innumerable fraternal and charitable bodies—these are the forms which have been realized by our desire for true community.’ Indeed, it is necessary that the six communal institutions—the nuclear family, the extended family, the neighborhood, the church, the voluntary association, and the employment/workplace association—are healthy, for government cannot by its nature alone teach morality without devolving into totalitarianism.”(Public Discourse essay by Dr. Gerard Mundy https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2019/10/56308/)   

[iv] “Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt”  Dr. Arthur Brooks, Harper Collins, 2019

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Pharming for Profit Part Two

“All things are engaged in writing their history…. Not a foot steps into the snow, or along the ground, but prints in characters more or less lasting, a map of its march.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first time I ever met anyone with a nut allergy was a good friend in Maine. He was a former Marine and CIA something (he couldn’t really talk about it) who was the head of the English Department at the local campus of the University of Maine. We were at a church after Mass function, and he was avoiding the delicious homemade brownies provided by a parishioner, although I knew he had a sweet tooth that rivaled mine. I offered him one, and when he declined, I asked if he was fasting for a reason. He answered that it was not a spiritual endeavor, but that a brownie with walnuts in them could kill him as his throat would likely seize up, and he would fall on the floor. I agreed it was probably a good idea to skip the brownies. Since thankfully I suffered no tragic similar malady, I ate his too.

What was once relatively rare has become so common that children cannot bring even a peanut butter sandwich to school because they could be shared with other kids who could be done great harm.  This is disappointing to me, because without peanut butter sandwiches, I probably would not have survived past ten. What has happened that so many are now brownie with nuts and peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich deprived? Please refer to the statistics cited in Part One regarding the multiplication of vaccines and chronic diseases mandated for children. Children in the U.S. born after 1989 are afflicted with a chronic disease at a rate four times higher than those born before the new vaccine protocols kicked in. (54% vs. 12.8%).

Among the quadrupling chronic diseases are food allergies, and nut allergies among the most common and life threatening. [i] Their instances have tripled since 1997, and visits to the emergency room for children have increased 214% for anaphylactic[ii] reactions to food[iii].  Anaphylaxis health care claims have increased 377%. Is this correlation with the onset of the huge increases in mandated vaccines for infants and preschool children coincidental and due to other environmental causes?  Perhaps, it is possible. It is also possible that it is not coincidence.

Autism is another epidemic that has become a devastating plague in the same time period – from one in 166 children in 2004 to 1 in 59 in 2018[iv]. Yes, some of that may be better diagnosis. Yes, there may be other environmental causes. Yes, there may be a genetic predisposition, just as with some of the other chronic conditions and allergies. As mentioned in the last post, the pharmacology industry is indemnified against any damage suits for vaccine induced injury, so any claim is decided by something set up by the Federal government: the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).

While VICP will adjudicate any claims for vaccinations for flu or childhood disease, they will shred any that mention autism. Not to be considered. Because it has been “proven”[v] that there is no relationship between autism and vaccines. “Settled science” is a magic and meaningless phrase; it ends all reasoned discussion. So if you think your child has vaccine induced autism because its onset was immediately after a vaccination, and your child was on a normal developmental path prior to that, and there have been such instances, not only will the manufacturer be indemnified against damages by a Federal firewall, that firewall will not allow you to even present a case. Game, set, match, you are on your own. In the footnotes below, several are for pages in the Children’s Health Defense website; exploring that will give you far more information on the topic than a blog post. There are references to eighty-nine peer reviewed studies that correlate to one degree or another the onset of autism to vaccination or immunization injury, but they are ignored, rebutted, rebuked and derided by the vaccination industry, an industry that produces annual revenues of 1.6-billion-dollars. The “settled science” is theirs.

But the point of these statistics and facts is not to shut down childhood vaccination programs, but as with other hot topic science issues that have morphed into political or ideological issues, rather can we just consider two commonsense questions and not be threatened with being drawn and quartered as a science hating troglodyte?

 “Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete.”  Herman Melville, “Moby Dick”

Many states, most recently California, are enacting increasingly draconian laws to mandate infant vaccinations. They cite another desired outcome of the nanny state, “herd immunity,” a defined percentage of the immunized (an unfortunate and chilling metaphor). These laws use the coercive power of the state like refusal to admit students into schools if they haven’t checked all the vaccination boxes. There have been instances where the arm of the state named child protective services or the department of children and youth has stepped in to take children from the parents in order to get them vaccinated. Kids trust their parents when they jump off the dock into their arms, and they trust them to make the right decisions regarding their safety and well-being. Not the state, but their parents.  Question one: given the still open questions of risk and the good possibility that genetic predisposition increases risk to harm from vaccinations, why should the state not allow a physician and her patient’s parents to determine the avoidance, timing or spacing of some or all vaccinations as medical exemptions if higher risk is determined for individual children?

If you are past sixty, the pressure put on to get flu and pneumonia shots is increasing. Every time I have acquiesced in this high profit agenda, I get sick, maybe not full flu sick, but headache, scratchy throated, muscle aching two day misery, only to learn afterwards that the strain of flu for which I was being inoculated missed the mark that year. Another strain of flu virus was making the rounds. With the “herd immunity” refrain in full sway, our physicians and pharmacies are driven to put on the pressure. I cannot go to buy Band-Aids or have a six-month checkup without being asked multiple times, “Have you had your flu shot yet?” Most of the time these shots are free, at least to me. Each time, I politely decline. Among the millions of dollars of settlements that are paid out by VICP, by far the largest share is for flu shot injuries[vi]. Question two: with an aging (and increasingly expensive population), can refusal to cover flu related illness and hospitalization by insurance carriers for any without documentation of a flu shot be far ahead of us with the terrifying partnership of the power of the state, big pharma and insurance companies?

Sometimes as Will Rogers reminded us, “Commonsense ain’t so common.”

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Aldo Leopold


[i] Vaccines and food allergies. https://childrenshealthdefense.org/news/no-enigma-vaccines-and-the-food-allergy-epidemic/

[ii] Anaphylactic shock or anaphylaxis is a sudden onset allergic reaction that can close the throat and cause death or permanent damage. 35% of the attacks are experienced with the first exposure. One can kill you if not immediately diagnosed and treated. Nut allergies can cause this. So can vaccinations.

[iii] Increase in emergency room visits for anaphylaxis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29663520

[iv] Increase in autism in children. https://www.autismspeaks.org/science-news/cdc-increases-estimate-autisms-prevalence-15-percent-1-59-children

[v] Except for 89 peer reviewed studies like this one. https://childrenshealthdefense.org/research_db/a-two-phase-study-evaluating-the-relationship-between-thimerosal-containing-vaccine-administration-and-the-risk-for-an-autism-spectrum-disorder-diagnosis-in-the-united-states/

 

[vi] Approximately 44% of the number of VICP settlements (VICP total injury pay outs are $4.2 billion with a B) in the history of the program since 1988 have been for flu shot injuries. https://www.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/hrsa/vaccine-compensation/data/data-statistics-october-2019.pdf

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Pharming for Profit Part One

‘Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it – would they let me – since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in.” Herman Melville, “Moby Dick”

In a terrible hot summer when I was nine or ten, my mother did not allow her then five children out of the yard because the plague had come to my hometown, and no one knew what to do about it. No pick-up baseball games or stickball with a chalked strike zone on the cement of the school wall as we usually played almost every day. The town swimming pool was drained and closed with locked gates and warning signs. Life Magazine had cover stories and pictures of the paralyzed kept breathing through a tube loaded contraption called an “Iron Lung.” The patient victim was laid on their back looking up with only their head exposed, a seal around their necks and haunted eyes; a mirror was suspended at an angle attached to the mouth of the machine so they could see visitors.

The white and chrome gleaming artificial lung alternated pressure and non-pressure to fill and empty the lungs with an ominous repetitive pumping sound as it filled and emptied the chamber enclosing their body, reminding all with every pulsation of fragility and mortality. White and chrome cylinders the size of coffins with thick windows so the doctors could monitor the movements of the chest, but a harkening to the rack in a wicked baron’s castle troubled all who saw them. After the disease ran its course, some of the afflicted would regain their strength, some would die, and some would pass the rest of their lives with metal braces on their withered legs to enable them to get around. We’d see them lurching about and avert our eyes. Polio. Polio. Polio. Polio. Fear in whispered conversations among the mothers of the neighborhood. Like practicing by futilely ducking under our school desks for a Cold War nuclear drill, polio left a mark on all the children who went through that summer.

When Jonas Salk tested and developed his vaccination a year or so later, we lined up for the shots at the town Blackburn Memorial Hall.  All the school nurses administered them when we came back in the fall for any who had missed the first round. Jubilation. Freedom to roam and swim and play pick up baseball. Polio shots were added to smallpox inoculations with their telltale irregular round scar on our upper arms as regular immunization against that with which we had no other defense. Vaccinations. Miracles.

But something has gone amiss, and like all man-made miracles they can run awry with unforeseen, powerful consequences, especially when the miracles intertwine with political agendas, social engineering and money.

“This is the first time in medicine’s history the drug industry has placed at our disposal a powerful, disease-producing chemical for use in the healthy rather than the sick.” Dr. Herbert Ratner, so called Senate “Nelson Pill Hearings,” 1970

Dr. Ratner will reappear in a later post, and probably more than two for this is complicated. Drawing analogies between vaccinations and birth control pills will take some explanation, but for now, we will stick with the former and postpone the latter. But analogy does exist, and the implications are alarming. His quote almost fifty years ago was prophetic; limiting his observations to just the Pill was optimistic. What could be a better business model for big Pharma than producing something highly profitable for healthy people, not just the sick? There is a much larger market with the well.

Both before and after the polio terror, most of us developed normal immunity to what were called normal “childhood illnesses” through exposure, various rashes, fevers, swellings and outbreaks. I had them all: mumps both sides, measles, chicken pox and rubella, along with the usual panoply of flus, stomach bugs and fifty or so upper respiratory infections. During this rite of passage, we acquired for the most part lifetime immunity. Deaths from these diseases were very rare and usually in people otherwise compromised by poor health. I never heard of anybody dying from one of them; most, like me, rested quietly, isolated as much as possible in rooms shared with siblings with some books and a hovering mother bringing sweet drinks, Jello in our favorite flavor (I liked the red stuff) and whatever else we could stand until the symptoms passed. Our siblings usually wound up sick too. Sometimes we skipped a few days of school unless we were unlucky enough to catch one during vacations. If we developed a spectacular rash or swollen glands, there were pictures taken for family albums to torture us as adolescents at gatherings and with prospective spouses.

Vaccinations do not grant lifetime immunity in most cases and require booster shots (whatever that means) from time to time, which most adults do not get. Most adults in their thirties think they are fully immune because of their childhood inoculation, but they are wrong.  Childhood diseases incurred as an adult are more severe, more unpleasant and can carry more serious consequences.

We had two vaccinations: smallpox and a combination diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) in a few stages. Before we were two, we had five shots and never more than one in an office visit. Later came polio, first as shot, later taken orally.  In 1986, there were twelve shots. Today there are fifty-four with multiple shots for some and kids get up to five in one visit. Check the attached schedule. [i] What was when I was a kid a small part of the pharmaceutical industry is now almost twenty percent of their revenue and a fifty-billion-dollar monster revenue producer. And miracle of miracles for a business, the vaccine producers are indemnified against any losses by a Federal piece of legislation called the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. Can’t be sued. Skate free from any threat to their guaranteed profits. Any claims go into something called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) that was set up after lots of claims had the pharmaceutical corporations threatening to stop producing them. The government in its capacity as grand nanny decided that the public interest was best served by covering the tail side of Big Pharma. Did you know that? [ii]More next time.

One more piece of data to mull over before the next chapter: the flood of children with chronic diseases [iii] breaks down like this: children born before 1989 when the new vaccine protocols vastly expanded are afflicted with a chronic illness at a 12.8% rate. Those born after 1989 are stricken at a 54% rate. [iv]Bet you didn’t know that either.

Hopefully without drawing the quick and understandable wrath of either the proponents or the anti-vaxxers and being immediately consigned to the crazies, we will explore this a bit more in the next post.  Please hold your fire until then.

“The truth is, of course, that Mr. Shaw is cruelly hampered by the fact that he cannot tell any lie unless he thinks it is the truth.” G.K. Chesterton. From the introduction to “Orthodoxy” about his good friend and frequent debating opponent, the Progressive, George Bernard Shaw.

[i] From the Children’s Health Defense organization: CDC Recommended Vaccine Schedule

[ii] Would be like if the car companies came up with a pure hydrogen powered car that fixed much of the CO2 emissions terror and fit right in with the anthropogenic climate change scare agenda. Trouble is in some very rare instances they would explode into tiny pieces, killing everyone in a 100’ radius. Then the government to push the progressive rock up the hill passes legislation to indemnify the car companies from damages, so that they’ll keep making the damn things. Far-fetched? Maybe. The good of the many outweighs the assured harm to the tiny few.

[iii] They’re the neuro-developmental diseases, ADD, ADHD, language delays, speech delays, tics, Tourette Syndrome, ASD, and autism. The auto-immune disorders, Guillan-Barre, multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. The anaphylactic diseases, food allergies, rhinitis, asthma, and eczema. (From a speech this year by Robert Kennedy Jr.)

[iv] Ibid

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Lil’ Rhody Part 2

“Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.” Will Rogers

Senate President Ruggerio and House Speaker Mattiello (from WPRO 2015)

The last post ended with Rhode Island’s colorful rogue, Buddy Cianci, long time Providence mayor and failed gubernatorial candidate. This time up, the current gray denizens inhabiting the Rhode Island statehouse make their appearance. Long dominated by the Democrat Party, Rhode Island politics are inbred and clubby on a need to know basis. Outsiders and voters don’t need to know.

Much has been written about ‘deep state’ bureaucracy in Washington: privileged, secretive and shielded from view, intensely ideological, entitled, entrenched, metastasizing relentlessly and ruthless in its self-regard and self-preservation.  Each state has its own version; Rhode Island is no exception.

When Rita worked as Executive Director of Rhode Island Right to Life, she was a registered lobbyist and stalked the corridors of the statehouse discussing pending legislation relevant to her organization with state reps and senators and occasionally governors and Federal reps and senators.  On one of her first visits to the Statehouse, Rita was anxious to learn the ways of the labyrinth.  She went to the office of a friend, who was office manager to the Democrat Senate Majority Leader, who eventually quit under a cloud. Under a cloud is how many incumbents reluctantly fade away in Rhode Island.

While she was there, a confidant of her friend and recently in her probationary period as a new state employee, rushed through the door and breathlessly exclaimed, “I got my benefits!” She had the enthusiasm of someone who just hit the lottery. And in a way, she had. Lifetime health care and pension benefits, and even though grossly underfunded by a legislature reluctant to disclose the full costs of employee sinecures to the voters, the promise was at least there for permanent security. “I got my benefits!” translated as “I am now deeply ensconced in the elite cadre of protected forever state workers!” Or in short, “Hallelujah, hallelujah, there is a God!![i]

After Rita left her friend’s office, she made her way down the stairs past another public employee sitting at a naked desktop in an empty corridor waiting for his benefits. On his desk was nothing: no phone, no computer, no paper, not even a magazine. He did not look embarrassed or bored or apologetic to be doing absolutely nothing. He was friendly in an offhanded, distracted way and seemed confident that there would be no negative repercussions for his lack of productive work. These things will work themselves out. Eventually. No one had asked him to do anything or defined his job for him, but his paycheck would clear on Friday – the reward for shoe leather expended in some key office holder’s campaign no doubt. Thus, were Rita’s first lessons in Rhode Island state governance completed.

Please understand there are many highly skilled professionals who work hard every day as public employees, and we are fortunate they do, especially in jobs protecting the environment, clean air and water, health and safety. But there are others who tarnish the great ones, which should offend the productive workers and the voters.

“One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.” Niccolo Machiavelli

Last post Rhode Island was lauded as the ‘Most Peaceful’ state in the country. Lil’ Rhody shows on some other lists. It ranks sixth highest in total tax burden on its citizens[ii], not a great surprise as all the others at the top are similarly Democrat controlled. Democrats are the party of coercive government solutions to social problems, irrespective of evidence that the state can positively influence them. The Law of Unintended Consequences is as real as gravity, especially when complicated with vote pandering and political posturing. Rhode island is well situated as well in the top tier of public employees per capita[iii].

In a couple of other categories, though, Rhode Island does not sit on the top of the pyramid. In the annual CNBC study of the states that grow jobs and induce new businesses to move in, Rhode Island climbed a notch or two out of the cellar a year ago, but for 2019 dropped into its accustomed spot, fiftieth out of fifty.[iv] We bleed jobs in Rhode Island, and subsequently we hemorrhage population and are in danger of losing one of our two House of Representative seats. More alarming, what we are losing is our young people, so the population demographic is aging. The state spends lavishly to educate our young and hosts several excellent universities, but their graduates head to Texas, Arizona, North Carolina or even neighboring Massachusetts for far better job prospects.

Anyone who has driven Rhode Island potholed roads and over or under its rusted steel and pitted concrete bridges is not surprised at another national ranking. Again, fiftieth out of fifty for infrastructure[v]. That’s right. Sixth in tax burden, fiftieth in infrastructure and business development. Taxpayer money is sucked into the spongy conduits of government: nepotism and connected public jobs, underfunded and unaffordable pension plans for public employees and underwriting bonds for ill advised, but politically attractive private businesses like Curt Schilling’s sports video games debacle. The black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy is more attractive as an investment.

The legislative session for 2018-2019 slowly ramped up after the fund-raising gatherings called “times” and the election furor subsided. Obviously, the most urgent priority for legislators must have been lowering taxes for its beleaguered constituents and addressing the sorry business environment and dangerous bridge situation. Maybe in a happier parallel universe. In Rhode Island, this past session was dominated by authorizing open season on our tiniest and most vulnerable human beings. Urged on by prominent media outlets in the state like the Providence Journal and local TV stations, after several months of contentious hearings, and through the contrivance of previously professed pro-life Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and enthusiastic abortion advocate Governor Gina Raimondo, the Reproductive Privacy Act was passed. Pink shirted screaming bullies shouted down committee hearings and briefly invaded the Senate President’s office. They picketed the homes of swing committee members and with van mounted loudspeakers called them out as hating women to their neighbors and children.

The various backroom Machiavellian maneuvers are beyond the scope of this post.  Attached is a more detailed history for any more curious (or masochistic) readers.[vi]  Some brief clarifying notes:

  • The bill mimics one written by lawyers hired by NARAL and Planned Parenthood, which funded and organized pink shirted assault and publicity. It mirrors similar bills passed in Vermont and New York. The Reproductive Privacy bill had little to do with privacy (it couldn’t have been more public) and nothing to do with reproduction. On the contrary; its singular focus was on violently inhibiting it.
  • It allows abortion for any reason in any form up to the moment of birth. 73% of voters oppose such late term abortions, but the supporters want no restrictions. The bill prohibits any rules regarding abortion clinics, including authorizing some who are not doctors to perform them.
  • Several times the bill was stopped in committee votes, only to be resurrected by its proponents in backroom manipulations. At one point, in violation of Senate rules, the chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee which heard all the late-night testimony, when it became apparent the bill would be defeated again, unilaterally switched it to another committee stacked in its favor that heard no testimony. That was only one instance of several similar moves that kept the bill alive.
  • After a Senate hearing killed one version of the bill, the pink shirts stormed the Senate President’s office demanding that he intervene despite his long professed pro-life stance. Viewers of the evening news were treated to the sight of him with face frozen in fear being escorted from his office by Capital Police[vii].

In my youth a young Democrat Senator, John F Kennedy, launched his career with his wartime heroics and the publication of his Pulitzer Prize winning book about major political figures in American history from all parties who risked their political fortunes and lives to stand up for what was right. “Profiles in Courage” once defined what Democrat politics stood for. There were very few profiles in courage in the Rhode Island statehouse this year. Cowards who feared losing their privileges and influence or their gavel collapsed under pressure and sanctioned sacrifices of babies to a culture obsessed with pleasure and irresponsibility regarding its consequences.

“The promise given is a necessity of the past; the word broken is a necessity of the present.”  Niccolo Machiavelli

[i] Retiree benefits were altered for those retiring after 2008, capping state reimbursement for health care after 65 to 80% of costs. Prior to that, retired state employees with long service would receive 100%.

[ii] https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-highest-lowest-tax-burden/20494/

[iii] https://www.governing.com/gov-data/public-workforce-salaries/states-most-government-workers-public-employees-by-job-type.html

[iv] https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/09/why-rhode-island-is-the-worst-state-for-business-in-2019.html

[v] https://www.forconstructionpros.com/asphalt/news/21017738/all-50-states-ranked-by-worst-crumbling-infrastructure

[vi] See the attached synopsis of the history of this bill. Link to document.

[vii] https://www.facebook.com/WPRI12/videos/watch-senate-president-dominick-ruggerio-had-to-be-escorted-from-his-office-as-p/442724003171604/

 

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Lil’ Rhody

“Louisiana loses 30 miles off our coast a year. We lost 100 miles last year off our coast thanks to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We have lost a size of land equivalent to the entire state of Rhode Island.”  Bobby Jindal (former governor)

Rhode Island has its own miles of beaches and estuaries. Through a series of circumstances that were in retrospect fortuitous, we have recently retired on Aquidneck Island near some sublime geography like mile long Sachuest Beach (Second Beach), Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, Norman Bird Sanctuary, and over the Mount Hope bridge into Bristol an Audubon refuge with an adjacent bike path through estuary and coastline that runs fifteen miles along Narragansett Bay. Although smaller than some ranches in Texas, Rhode Island is a lovely place to live.

One of the original thirteen colonies, tiny Rhode Island possesses the cockiness of a persistent undaunted underdog. Nearby to us, Newport was occupied for a time by British troops during the Revolutionary War after they defeated a small contingent of colonials in our town of Portsmouth on the north end of Aquidneck Island. Mansions were commandeered by British officers and are still gainfully inhabited by locals; one is now the Newport Art Museum. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is located on Bellevue Avenue along with its “cottages” like The Elms and The Breakers. Newport is on the south end of Aquidneck with a long history and many homes from the early eighteenth century and a few from the seventeenth. The oldest still open tavern in the country, the White Horse Tavern, is in Newport, built in 1652 and a tavern since 1673. The Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony of the Old Colony House (Original Rhode Island State House) a few hundred yards away. Fine dining, lively pubs and sailboats in the harbor abound. The America’s Cup races have been held in the waters here.

Rhode Island was just recognized as the most peaceful state in the union by USA Today[i], based on its lowest composite violent crime rate. We have come a long way since Raymond Patriarca[ii] ruled New England organized crime from his lawn chair on the sidewalk outside his vending machine distribution company on Federal Hill. Very little, if any, violent street crime, at least crime not authorized by Raymond, occurred on Federal Hill then, but for different reasons. Muggers may or may not have been successful in their felonious intent towards some Rolex wearing out of state patron of one of the fabled Federal Hill Italian restaurants, however no second attempts by the perpetrator were recorded. Nor were their bodies usually identified, even if scattered pieces were discovered in the Johnston landfill.

Irony is the mother’s milk of Rhode Island. The long list of governors, congressmen and mayors of at least four cities that went to prison just since we have lived here rivals any collection of woeful miscreants in the country. But a few were memorable and contributed to Lil’ Rhody’s ambiance.  One of the Federal prosecutors who put Raymond Senior away for good was a young firebrand, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci. Buddy eventually rode his hard charger reputation to become Mayor of Providence for multiple terms. Twice he lost his mayoralty, both for his own felony convictions. The first time was for straightening out a contractor who had slept with Buddy’s wife during the separation, but before the divorce. This correction was aided by a fireplace implement and (perhaps) a lighted cigarette extinguished on the face of the guy who made Buddy a cuckold. Buddy served no time but lost his job. He took advantage of his temporary ineligibility for office to become a hugely successful radio talk show host while he waited for his parole to wind down: witty, charming, quick and funny, he knew where all the political bodies were buried. His regular callers ranged from shock jock Don Imus and experts on government waste and budgets to Joe the Barber who knew everyone worth knowing among Rhode Island’s panoply of fascinating characters.

When his parole was completed, he easily won reelection swatting away the neophyte pretenders like annoying horseflies on Salty Brine Beach. During his tenure, the city was transformed from potholes and litter into a show place. The Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck Rivers, long imprisoned by concrete and steel conduits and buried by pavement, were dug out and exposed to the sunlight after a century. The confluence of the reborn rivers merge into the Providence River and now play host to gondolas and Waterfire events with music in the adjacent streets. The roads were well maintained, the schools were highly rated. The fire department was one of the best small city units in the country, all while keeping the tax rates low for longtime residents. Mayor Cianci loved his city; his politicking skills and reading of crowds that frequently gathered at his events were legend. We have a picture of him with his arm around our youngest daughter in her baseball uniform at an opening day event. Meg said he was nice and smelled of cigars. He was dressed in pressed jeans and a Providence sweatshirt, managing another city event picking up winter litter along the city roadsides. Ironically, he often held court at one of the Federal Hill restaurant’s sidewalk tables talking to anyone who stopped by. Everyone called him Buddy. His enemies called him Vincent. No one called him Vinny that I ever heard.

His second felony conviction for criminal corruption ended his string of terms after new Federal prosecutors investigated the Mayor’s office for a variety of offenses like cash in envelopes for parking lot permits, liquor licenses not renewed after the Mayor was blackballed by an exclusive and snooty East Side brandy and cigar men’s club and sweetheart snow plowing contract deals. No specific bribe was ever credited to Buddy, but his city hall administrators were knee deep. He rewarded personal loyalty with appointments and trust, and his courtiers profited. The RICO conspiracy due to the stench of his associates brought him down. He spent five years in a Federal prison without public complaint (don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time) and then was almost reelected to a third set of mayoral terms. Now in full disclosure with his famous toupee discarded, his luck ran out, and his independent run after the Republican Party disowned him fell short in a three-way race.

Back at the radio station to much acclaim and enthusiastic welcome from his loyal constituents, Buddy fell ill while on the air and died shortly thereafter to be mourned by most of the city. Despised by the progressive politicians who circled him constantly like a pack of jackals stalking an aging lion, he reveled in ridiculing their pretentions and hypocrisy. A particularly egregious representative of their ilk, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a doctrinaire and unctuous progressive, was always referred on the air as Weldon Shitehouse[iii] whenever Buddy would eviscerate him for some profoundly stupid ideological remark the hapless Senator solemnly opined. I still miss Buddy. The annual oldest in the country Fourth of July parade in Bristol will never be the same without him riding by in the convertible pointing to and greeting those he knew at every turn. The world is less interesting without him.

“Political corruption is to Rhode Island as smog is to people who live in Los Angeles: nobody complains of its absence, but when it rolls around everyone feels right at home.” Phillip Gourevitch, “The New Yorker”

Space and the beleaguered reader’s patience and attention span prohibit more for this post. The next one will address the soulless landscape of the current batch of more sinister and cowardly politicians who this year enacted some truly despicable legislation with a series of backroom power moves. More adventures in the Ocean State to follow.

 

[i] https://patch.com/rhode-island/newport/rhode-island-named-most-peaceful-state-u-s

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_L._S._Patriarca

[iii] https://legalinsurrection.com/2018/09/senator-sheldon-whitehouse-grilled-brett-kavanaugh-about-a-yearbook-fart-joke-seriously/

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Weltschmerz

“In the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.” Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke, 1790

In the seventeenth century the French author Francois de La Rochefoucauld famously wrote that hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. I wonder if the hypocrites who prompted the quote cared whether they were caught out. Recent events in the Rhode Island legislature indicate that the current batch of hypocrites want only to avoid a memorable line that will make the Providence Journal or WPRI in the five o’clock news and show up in their opponent’s talking points in the next election. Little heed seems to be paid to how conspicuous is their cynical hypocrisy to listeners, only matters if it will cost them votes. Hypocrisy is expected, even celebrated, if it’s sufficiently clever and the goals align with the progressive vision.

A Providence legislator, Dan McKearnan, speaking on the floor of the House said that his “deep faith” (Catholic} informed his advocacy and that he trusted women to “make holy choices.” Holy choices. The choices they would make when the legislation passed would be to kill or not to kill their offspring, to “terminate” their pregnancy, which the legislation (H5125a,) sanctioned up to the moment of birth. Forty weeks. Full term, a full four months past viability. A fetus one second, someone’s baby the next. Or someone’s tiny corpse.

In a television news debate on the bill that has passed the House and is waiting Senate action, Rabbi Sarah Mack stated that the bill was a victory for freedom and rightly favored “existing life.” Existing life. Must have cut those boring embryology courses in school. Every major embryology text marks conception as the beginning of human life.  So, science was not her strength, but did she sleep in when they covered Jeremiah 1:5? “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart.” Perhaps Rabbi Mack stayed too late at lunch playing bridge in the dining commons when her professor taught Isaiah 49:1. “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named my name.” Or returned late from Fort Lauderdale on spring break when they reviewed the exegesis on Psalm 139:13. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” She said, and rightly so, that it was not right that religion should dictate legislation. However, when legislation first ignores science and then fails to make a moral judgment informed by a conscience formed by faith or justice or reason or protection of the most vulnerable, well, that’s a sadder tale.

“We have obligations to mankind at large, which are not in consequence of any voluntary pact. They arise from the relation of man to man, and the relation of man to God, which are not matters of choice.” Edmund Burke

The bill was named the Reproductive Privacy Act, which is a further irony in that it is concerned with not with “reproduction,” but with its lethal inhibition. The “privacy” allusion is a tip of the hat to Roe v. Wade, which cited privacy as the foundation for usurping every state’s authority and instantly negated all legislation controlling abortion. The slippery ground for a privacy foundation was created by citing the Griswold v. Connecticut contraception case. One of the most infamous passages in Supreme Court history proposed this nonsense: “The foregoing cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.  Various guarantees create zones of privacy.” So, the Supreme Court decision that has spelled doom for sixty million pre-born Americans is sustained by a gauzy contrivance of emanations, penumbras and zones of privacy, suspended on a spider’s web.

A second spider’s web, upon which hangs the first, is the blind certainty that supports the progressive enterprise: the myth of human perfectionism – that progress is linear and will always move us closer towards some ideal future where human frailty and tendency towards prejudice, violence, using others for personal gain or pleasure will diminish to nothing as enlightened (and coercive) governance leads us to the promised land. Just the history in our own times, especially in the century immediately preceding this one, when various Utopian ideologies delivered the bloodiest hundred years in human history. The twentieth century alone provides the evidence that such beliefs are at best naïve, and at worst deliberate utilitarian delusions in pursuit of a totalitarian agenda.

The natural heir to that bloody century is our own. War, oppression, human trafficking are obvious and persistent horrors. Far worse is the dehumanization of a whole class of human beings, and it has wrought the highest tally, the single highest cause of death in the world and in our country last year that overwhelms the toll of any other. Disease, war, murder, terrorism, cancer, starvation, unclean waters are eclipsed in their body counts. Simply pronounce that yet-to-be-born humans are not human, and we contrive a cardboard culture that promises human fulfillment based on the lie of autonomy. We will secure economic futures built on killing our own children, feed our worst self-absorbed selves, and let it metastasize[i]. The largest single cause of death in the world in 2018 was abortion – 42 million, with over a million of those tiny victims in our own country.  Eleven million and counting rapidly year to date this year.[ii] We masquerade it as medical care, yet once exposed to the light sickens all who see it.[iii] Set up the kill and call it freedom, call it liberation, even call it virtue. “Weep not for me, (mothers of Jerusalem), weep for yourselves and for your children.”

“The Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with its eternal rays. Hence the encouragement we have given to all those schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or Communism, which fix men’s attention on the Future, on the very core of temporality. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the Future. Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, (New York: Macmillan Co.,1943), p.xv

[i] For a good article on the metastasis, see in this week’s Public Discourse, the article by Anthony Esolen: When Reason Does Not Suffice: Why Our Culture Still Accepts Abortion https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2019/04/50665/

[ii] From the Worldometers site.

[iii] From the true story of Abby Johnson, former employee of the year and director of a Texas Planned Parenthood facility. In “Unplanned” she tells her story. Here is the pivotal scene that changed her life. Watch it reflect. https://youtu.be/Z9bMwP2CLP8

 

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CRISPR Critters

“I don’t know how it will be in the years to come. There are monstrous changes taking place in the world, forces shaping a future whose face we do not know.” East of Eden, John Steinbeck

We have recently taken the plunge having long ago resigned ourselves to the reality that there is no privacy anymore. Spitting into a tube and mailing it off to 23 Ancestry, our DNA sequence has been typed and available for analysis. Among the findings on me was that I have deep in my genome a tiny percentage of Italian and Portuguese ancestry. No longer can Rita lay sole claim to a Mediterranean heritage. Our DNA sequences will join millions of others cataloged in servers and can be used for everything from medical research, predicting potential health risks and tracking ethnic backgrounds to catching criminals.

DNA databases have been subpoenaed and used to close some old cold cases, including catching a 1973 serial killer, Joseph DeAngelo. Mr. DeAngelo hadn’t even been typed, but his relatives had, and when investigators interviewed the relatives, Mr. DeAngelo figuratively and literally came under the microscope. The investigative team subpoenaed a DNA sample from him in a decades old hunt for the killer. He came up 99.99 percent as the guy. More than likely, he’s breathed the last free air of his life.

A caution about our well tracked future is whether genetic markers would make their way to health insurance providers, or in some Brave New World, whether these indicators could be used to hike premiums for those with certain predispositions. Or worse, deny coverage entirely. May already be happening beneath the radar. This will be adjudicated, precedent established, and hysterical editorials will be written. Count on it.

“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled.“ 

The Times They Are A-Changin,’ Bob Dylan

Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, wanted to find a cure for HIV AIDS, surely a positive pursuit. He developed a new vein to explore. Why not, instead of curing the disease, make people who cannot get it? He hypothesized the way to do that was to alter a specific gene, CCR5. Using CRSPIR[i] technology on an embryo, he cut and pasted, then implanted tiny humans in a willing (or not) uterus and grew some people. He grew two — twin girls and maybe a third later. Once the word leaked to the international press that He was altering the DNA in genes and making designer babies, the Chinese government reacted with righteous horror, as did many. The government claimed that it was not aware of the extent of his tinkering, and that no authorization was given to implant the babies, only to grow them awhile, see what happens and kill them. He must have saved up his milk money and found some other dark funding for his enterprise. There was even talk of capital punishment for He Jiankui, not an uncommon solution to an embarrassment in China. Last week credible evidence was found by other scientists looking at grant studies that there was Chinese government funding for his research from the start, all of it. Color me surprised. Once a method of customizing human beings is perfected, can Superman soldiers be far behind? Or IQs exceeding 300? Or mutant tireless and uncomplaining laborers? Or any number of permutations of designer people? How will science ethics hold fast with trillions of dollars were at stake? Aldous Huxley writ large. The commodification of human beings continues apace.

Last week another story ran that Crispr Therapeutics and its partner Vertex Pharmaceuticals[ii] had treated a rare blood genetic disease, beta thalassemia, with a one-time application of a CRISPR invader. More trials with human beings and unintended consequences be damned. The same team has started a similar study for sickle cell anemia, a genetic plague that is especially deadly in the African American community. The shares of both companies soared. A new world is upon us, and riches are there for the brave of heart. What could possibly go wrong with purposeful, profitable tweaking of the basic building blocks of human life? Not with a bang, but a whimper.

**********************************************************************************

I had a dream — a murky vision — of emerging after a long walk in a desolate wood – gnarled ancient trees without leaves – and coming upon a clearing with a dried-up spring and an abandoned house with weathered wood plank walls and a door partially ajar hanging off just the bottom hinge. With some difficulty I pushed through the door and found only a scarred pine table and a tipped over ladder-back chair. On the table were a stale crust of bitten bread, a few broken crayons, a half-burned candle fixed in wax and yellowed books with bent back pages. A story I’ll never know.

‘Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood

When blackness was a virtue the road was full of mud

I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form

Come in, she said

I’ll give ya shelter from the storm.  Shelter From the Storm, Bob Dylan

[i] CRISPIR is the acronym for “clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.” It is powerful and terrifying tool that mimics how a type of bacteria ‘learns’ to recognize and defend against a virus. In the bacteria, the “remembered” RNA sequence cuts the DNA of a virus it has learned to defend against into pieces, rendering it harmless. The new technology uses specific RNA sequences to cut and replace targeted sequences of DNA in a cell, including an embryo, and “fixes” or otherwise alters that embryo’s DNA, its chromosomes, its genes, what makes it, it.

[ii] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/crispr-infuses-first-human-landmark-132242277.html

 

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