THE IMPEACHMENT SPECTACLE CONTINUES

8 12 2019

I said in last month’s show that the “tree of possibilities” stemming from the impeachment effort was more complex than I had time for in that particular program. Since then, I have found an excellent expression of it at one of my favorite news blogs, “Moon of Alabama,” and I’m going to take the liberty of quoting that blog and offering my comments on what Moon’s author has written.

Here’s some of what “Mr. Moon” wrote:

If more Democratic swing-state representatives defect from the impeachment camp, which seems likely, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have a big problem. How can she proceed?

  • If the House votes down impeachment Donald Trump wins.
  • If the House holds no vote on the issue Donald Trump wins.
  • If the House votes for censure Donald Trump will have won on points and the issue will be over.
  • If the House votes for impeachment the case goes to the Senate for trial.

The Republican led Senate has two choices:

  • It can decide to not open an impeachment trial by simply voting against impeachment. Trump wins.
  • It can open an impeachment trial, use it to extensively hurt the Democrats and, in the end, vote against impeachment. Trump wins big time.

Should the House vote for impeachment the Senate is likely to go the second path.

During impeachment the whole Senate sits as the High Court. The House of Representatives sends ‘managers’ who act as prosecutors. The chief justice of the U.S. presides. A vote for impeachment at the end of the trial requires a two-thirds majority.

The Republican majority in the Senate could use such a trial to bring disarray into the Democrats’ primary. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet are all senators and Democratic primary candidates. They would probably have to stop campaigning to attend the trials. Another leading Democratic candidate would be a top witness.

The Republican senators would immediately call up a number of people for questioning. These would include Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, his business partner Devon Archer, John Kerry who was Secretary of State when Biden intervened for Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky and of course the CIA spy and (not-)whistleblower Erik Ciaramella. It would also be of interest to hear how deeply the former CIA director John Brennan was involved in the issue.

The Senators could use the impeachment trial to dig into all the crimes the Democrats under Obama committed in Ukraine. They would concentrate not on the Maidan coup but on the aftermath when the deals were made. There surely is a lot of dirt out there and it is not only Joe Biden’s.

Then there is Russiagate. Did the Obama administration use illegal means to spy on the Trump campaign? Sincethe issue is related to whatever Trump did there, there is good reason to include it into the trial.

The circus the Senate would open if the House votes for impeachment would play for many many months. The media would be full of this or that crime some Democrat or deep state actor supposedly committed. All this would play out during the election season.

An impeachment trial in the Senate would be a disaster for the Democrats.

I can not see why the Democrats would want to fall into such a trap. House leader Nancy Pelosi is experienced enough to not let that happen. But she will have to do some serious talking to convince the party that a vote on impeachment is not the best way to proceed.

In the week and a half since this was written, Ms. Pelosi has made the decision to go ahead with impeachment. This may turn out to be the equivalent of General Custer deciding that he had what it took to wipe out that Native American encampment on Little Big Horn Creek. Read the rest of this entry »





WHAT WOULD A DEMON DO? (revisited)

7 02 2015

This is a revised version of one of a commentary from one of my very first radio shows.  I think it’s worth revisiting.

Let’s engage in a little freewheeling fantasy, folks.

Let’s look at the world today and ask,demonWhat would a demon do?

A demon, in Western religious tradition, is a servant of Satan. It’s a demon’s job to make hell unpleasant for the rest of its inhabitants, to tempt us mere mortals into sin, or to afflict us once we’ve fallen. And how, in this day and age, might a demon afflict thee? Let me count some of the ways:

Demons can make sure souls are trapped in unhappy situations—for example, a life in which your mother didn’t want to have you in the first place and lacks the motivation, support, and resources to bring you up happily. Hell for you, hell for her.

Or, you could be born to parents who wanted you, but who find their own lives disrupted and crushed by vast forces beyond their control—drought, flood, war, disease, overpopulation, famine, marauding oil companies—you know, the classic horsemen of the apocalypse. A refugee camp in Africa for your kindergarten? Hell for just about everyone. Read the rest of this entry »





THE LITTLE GREEN SCHOOLHOUSE

11 01 2015

(This post was adapted from a post in my “Holsinger for House” blog)

music:  Chuck Berry, School Days

Educating young people is the most important thing our society, or any society, does, if only for the selfish reason that some day, our generation will be too old to rake care of ourselves, let alone maintain our culture, and so we need to do the best we can to teach the next generation how to take our place.28784grad-girl

Public schools are the main vehicle for doing this in our society.  At this point in time, I think they are not doing a very good job, despite the good intentions of nearly everyone involved in the process.  There are many reasons for this, and there are also concrete steps that could be taken to create a public school system that is responsive to the needs of the 21st century. Our culture is in the midst of many rapid changes, and our school systems need to change to meet new conditions.

First, I would like to discuss several well-intended reforms that have ultimately changed our schools for the worse, through the unintended consequences they engendered.

Read the rest of this entry »





O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL

10 03 2013

I have been writing this blog and doing this radio show now for nearly eight years.  I have devoted about a quarter of my time to it every month, and many things around our homestead have not happened because I have been keeping faith with this blog, my radio program, and the Green Party of Tennessee.

More on the Green Party in a little bit.  My blog has had, according to WordPress, nearly 47,000 visitors in these eight years, but, on the other hand, my spam protector tells me that it has protected me from 36,000 spam posts, meaning, as I understand it, that only about a quarter of my readers are actually on site to read, with the balance–that’s fifteen out of an average of twenty a day–only here to peddle fake Viagra, knockoff watches and handbags, and other detritus of our consumer-driven culture.  I don’t understand where the payoff for these people comes from.  Nobody I know takes them seriously.  It would certainly save a lot of human and electric energy, not to mention bandwidth, if such nonsense could be eliminated.   But I digress, as I so often do.  One thought leads to another, in an endless stream.

Here’s the point.  I have spent about as much time as I can trying to wake people and point out to them that the building is burning, and they/we need to either fight the fire or get out of the building, or both.  It’s time for me to quit talking about taking action, and actually take action myself.  Not to follow my instincts on this would be co-dependent, I think.  I have been there, and done that, and don’t care to dwell there any more.

So, I am looking for someone else in the Nashville area who would like to do this show–I’ve had a few nibbles, but no firm bites yet.  John and Beth can’t do it all themselves, and would like to cut back on their involvement as well.  If nobody wants to take it from our hands, “The Green Hour” will slip into the dustbin of radio history.  I am thinking that I may repurpose the “Deep Green Perspective” blog as an autobiography, since I think my whole life has been lived, in effect, from a “deep green perspective,” and I’d like to tell my story while I still remember most of it.  Anyway, if you’d like to play radio host, get in touch. Read the rest of this entry »





THE VICTIM LIKED IT

10 03 2013

A guest post by Derrick Jensen

Published in the March/April 2013 issue of Orion magazine

OCTOBER 2012 was the 323rd consecutive month for which the global temperature was above average. The odds of this happening randomly are literally astronomical: one in ten to the hundredth power. For comparison, there are ten to the eightieth power atoms in the known universe. So if all the atoms in the universe were white, except one was green, your odds of reaching blindly into a bag of all the atoms in the universe and picking out the green one would be greater than that of having 323 consecutive months of above-average temperatures were global warming not happening.

A sane person might think that in the face of this, and with life on earth at stake, the debate over whether global warming is happening would have ended. A sane person might think that in the face of melting glaciers and melting ice caps, we would be desperately discussing how to stop it. A sane person might think that after Hurricane Sandy ripped into New York City (the center of the universe, according to some), the denial would be over.

But this sane person would be wrong. In December of 2012, former head of the EPA and White House “Climate Czar” Carol Browner said, “A majority in our House of Representatives appears to not even think the problem is real. It’s sort of stunning to me because I’ve never seen the breadth of scientific consensus on an environmental issue like there is on this.” The next speaker at the event, a conference about the Clean Air Act, was Joe Barton, chairman emeritus of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce who currently sits on the Environment and the Economy subcommittee. As if to prove her point, he stated that atmospheric carbon can’t be dangerous because it’s “a necessity of life.” In fact, he noted, he was exhaling carbon as he spoke! Q.E.D. Besides, he said, greenhouses are good things: “There’s a reason that you build things called greenhouses, and that’s to help things grow.”

It would be easy enough to laugh at his stupidity if he weren’t in a position of power and using that position to help kill what remains of the planet. It would be easy enough to just label his denial “stunning” and move on. But his denial is part of a larger pattern, and articulating patterns is the first step toward changing them….

Reprinted with permission.  You can read the rest of this article here.

music:  Jennifer Berezan, “The Whole World Is Burning

Eliza Gilkyson w/John Doe, “Chimes of Freedom





CHANGES AT DEEP GREEN PERSPECTIVE

13 10 2012

I am going to start posting twice a month, rather than once a month, since one of our show hosts has moved out of the area and can no longer take part in our rotation.  (As I hope you are aware, these ravings of mine are set in pixels as part of  a radio show, “The Green Hour,” on WRFN-LP, 107.1 FM and online, in Nashville, Tennessee.  The show is the radio voice of the Green Party of Middle Tennessee, which is affiliated with the Green Party of Tennessee, part of the national/international Green Party movement.)

Moving to twice a month will make my comments more timely, but since I have a lot to do in my life besides write political analysis, my plan is to write about as much as I have been, split it between the two shows, and play more music.

If you live in middle Tennessee, have a deep interest in Green politics, and have always wanted to be a radio show host, please get in touch–I am not at all attached to doing two shows a month!





241 THINGS A GREEN CAN SAY TO IRRITATE DEMOCRATS

10 09 2011

I recently ran across a cute little piece on the internet, called “100 Things You Can Say to Irritate Republicans.” It’s quite a mix.  Some of it is good talking points, such as

10. Reagan raised taxes eleven times as President.
11. Reagan legalized abortion as Governor of California.
12. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency.
13. Ronald Reagan supported gun control.

Some of it is long-term historical stuff, like

1. A Socialist wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.
2. Jesus healed the sick and helped the poor, for free.
3. Joseph McCarthy was an un-American, witch hunting sissy.
4. Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were traitors.
5. The South lost the Civil War, get over it.

And some of it is downright silly:

67. Republicans don’t want to pay for your birth control, but they want you to pay for their Viagra.
68. Republicans actually NEED Viagra                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 71. Republicans hate communism, so why do they refer to themselves as red states?

and some are good indicators of how much baloney run-of-the-mill right wingers are willing to swallow;

69. Fox News is owned by an Australian and has a Saudi prince as an investor.
70. Republicans complain about immigrants taking American jobs, then freely give American jobs to foreigners overseas.

What, I wondered, would be on the list of “100 things a Green can say to irritate a Democrat” ?Then I found that a peace group in St. Petersburg, Florida, had already done my work for me, and then some:  They came up with an “Obama Fact Sheet,” with 241 examples of Obama behavior that directly contradicts the progressive values so many of his supporters project onto him.  Here’s some samples, starting with, as it were, the high (low?) points:

hype we can believe in!

Waged war on Libya without congressional approval
– Started a covert, drone war in Yemen
– Escalated the proxy war in Somalia
– Escalated the CIA drone war in Pakistan
– Maintained the military occupation of Iraq
– Sharply escalated the war in Afghanistan
– Secretly deployed US special forces to 75 countries
– Sold a record $60 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia
– Signed an agreement for 7 military bases in Colombia
– Touted nuclear power, even after the disaster in Japan
– Opened up deepwater oil drilling, even after the BP disaster
– Did a TV commercial promoting “clean coal”
– Defended body scans and pat-downs at airports
– Signed the Patriot Act extension into law
– Continued Bush’s rendition program

The indictment then moves chronologically backwards through Obama’s political career, showing how he has abandoned his earlier, more principled stands as he has risen in the ranks of power.

  • Obama’s military action in Libya contradicts his words from 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation” (read)
  • Obama: Drill, Baby, Drill.  Obama to open offshore areas to oil drilling  — In June 2008, then-Sen. Obama told reporters in Jacksonville, Florida, “when I’m president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium here in Florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off Florida’s coasts” (read).  Obama said offshore oil drilling is “not risky” (read).
  • Obama does U-turn on Guantanamo Bay terror trials – will restart military tribunals for a small number of Guantanamo detainees, reviving a Bush-era trial system he once assailed as flawed (read).

The list also includes praise for Obama from Republicans, and I don’t mean that rare breed known as “liberal Republicans.”  we’re talking about a former member of John McCain’s election staff:

The absence of a solid anti-war voice on Obama’s national security team means that US foreign policy isn’t going to change – “What does it say that, with 130 members of the House and 23 in the Senate who voted against the war, Obama chooses to hire Democrats who made the same judgment as Bush and McCain?”   Neoconservative leader and former McCain campaign staffer Max Boot summed it up best. “I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain,” (Jeremy Scahill, 12/1/08).

From that Republican eminence grise, Karl Rove, we hear a tweet:  “Thanksgiving Cheer From Obama – He’s assembled a first-rate economic team” (read).

Plus, there’s a link to an article in which the likes of Newt Gingrich and Richard Perle applaud Obama’s selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State:

Newt Gingrich told Fox News that she would be “a very formidable secretary of state, and frankly, a lot tougher in defending American interests than some of the liberal secretaries of state we’ve had in the past.” Republican Senator Jon Kyl lavished her with praise, calling her “a very good selection.” The Weekly Standard gushed that she had become “The Great Right Hope.”

“On the whole I’m quite pleased,” explains Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defense Policy Board and an architect of the Iraq war. “She seems to me quite tough-minded. That’s not a worldview, but it is a predisposition. That’s a good thing. It’s not an easy world out there.”

….Perle says he would rather have a hawkish Democrat than a Chuck Hagel-style Republican as a token bi-partisan appointment. “I heard about others on the list [for secretary of state] that I wouldn’t be happy about,” he says. “Those were mostly Republicans.”

….Perle predicts that Clinton will likely perpetuate the foreign policy approaches that have typified Bush’s second term, when the president pursued goals such as tighter sanctions on Iran. “I’m relieved,” he says. “There’s not going to be as much change as we were led to believe. I think she’s very much in the mainstream. By now, I think the Bush foreign policy is, as a practical matter, the same policy as the policy of the Department of State–which is what I’d expect it to be under Hillary Clinton. Contrary to expectations, I don’t think we would see a lot of change.”

Note:  neo-con man Perle says he likes Hilary Clinton better than the unnamed Republicans who were also on Obama’s short list for Secretary of State.  Obama was considering Republicans for one of the most critical positions in his cabinet, right from the get-go.  So much for all that “hope and change” stuff, eh?

Well, I was curious to see what kind of reaction these 241theses, to be Lutheran about it, would have on our local progressive community, so I nailed them to the wall at Mid-Tenn. Progressive Strategy’s Facebook page, where they provoked a storm of comments, mostly expressing denial and affirming that the only way to create change in America was to work through the Democrat Party.  (And I, Sisyphus, will roll this huge boulder up to the top of that hill!)  There was one comment, though, that actually did cut to the chase:

…so you’ve successfully brought the problem to the table. I appreciate presenting a problem, but like I told my kids when I was raising them…you can always bring the problem to me, but please bring it with at least an attempt at a solution. What is your solution?

And so I wrote a response, including my best shot at a solution.  I will share it with you after this musical break.

music:  Will Kimbrough, “I Lie”





I, ME, ME, MINE

13 03 2011

I don’t know what Jules Dervaes was thinking when he trademarked the phrases “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading.”  I don’t know how he managed to convince somebody at the trademark bureau that he was the originator of these terms and of the techniques they cover.   He did not originate these terms, nor did he originate the practices they describe.  I suppose this is indicative of the vast cultural divide that exists in America:  to those of us who have been urban homesteaders over  the last forty years, the movement is widespread and deep; to somebody who lives inside the beltway (mentally if not geographically) and commutes to the copyright office, we are apparently invisible, and Dervaes was the first person who brought our movement to his attention.

Anyway, since getting his trademark, Dervaes has been acting like a bully, sending threatening letters to long-established urban homesteading groups and authors, getting Facebook pages banned, and generally making it harder for urban homesteaders to network with each other.  Will somebody please put a pie in this guy’s face?

The urban homesteaders who have been blocked on Facebook have started a “Take Back Urban Homesteading” Facebook group, as well as a petition to revoke Dervaes’ trademark.

A bizarre twist is that Dervaes shut down these Facebook sites alleging violation of “copyright,” but there is an important legal difference between “trademark” and “copyright.”  None of these sites used any of Dervaes’ copyrighted writings, but Facebook shut them down anyway, and says it won’t allow “urban homesteading” pages unless Dervaes withdraws his complaint, which he shows no sign of doing.  This is a disturbing precedent for Facebook–does it mean that Monsanto can use its trademark to get Facebook to bump pages like Millions Against Monsanto by OrganicConsumers.org, Say NO to MONSANTO, and Exposing Monsanto,  just to name a few?

Fortunately, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has joined the fray on the side of freeing “Urban Homesteading,” putting their considerable legal resources to work and adding the Dervaes Institute to their “Hall of Shame.”  (EFF, by the way, was started by Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow….makes me glad “the music never stopped”! )

Dervaes did not originate the term “urban homesteading.”  Recently I was looking at a 1980 copy of the Whole Earth Catalog, which has a couple of pages devoted to “urban homesteading.”  At Dervaes’ website, a “history” page indicates that in 1980 Jules D.was  practicing rural homesteading in Florida, and did not move to Los Angeles and begin homesteading in an urban area until 1985.  So no, he didn’t coin the term.  And no, I’m not giving you a link to his website.  He can toot his own horn.  I ain’t gonna help him.

And yes, “urban homestead/ing” is in widespread use. At the “Urban Homestead” website, the opening statement reads, ” Since 1992, we have helped supply home orchardists with some of the best apple trees ever grown.”   An internet search yields 258,000 mentions of “urban homesteading,” and the the Dervaes are not at the head of the list.  Jealous, Jules?  Ruby Blume, of the Oakland Institute of Urban Homesteading, told me in a telephone interview that she had never heard of the Dervaes family before she got a letter from them recently, informing her of their 2010 copyright.  Blume’s Institute of Urban Homesteading has been up and running since 2008.  She wrote them back, requesting more information and informing them that she intends to contest their trademark.  She has yet to receive a reply.

Trademarking “urban homestead” is akin to trademarking “alternative energy” or, for that matter, “home bible study.”  For Dervaes to attempt to prevent anyone else from using the term is, simply put, nuts.  Bill Mollison couldn’t copyright “permaculture” because it had already be become common enough to be in the dictionary before he applied for the copyright, and he is quite clearly both the inventor of the term and the codifier of the practices involved.  The Green Party has been unable to trademark “Green Party” because there is just one other group in the country that calls itself “The Green Party.”  There are dozens of authors and local groups who use the phrase “urban homesteading” to describe their work, or in the titles of their books.  How could Dervaes get away with such arrogant nonsense?

Even Eric Pelton, the lawyer who helped Dervaes obtain the trademark admitted, in an unrelated interview, that

“Weak trademarks are descriptive or generic words. Generic words like ‘laptop’ for computers or ‘quick subs’ for a sandwich shop are very very weak trademarks and are only entitled to minimal, at best, protection.”

Or “weak, generic terms”  like “urban homestead,” for that matter?  Just because a lawyer will take your money, doesn’t mean he thinks you’re right.  In that light, it’s probably significant that Jules Dervaes, and not Eric Pelton, is the originator of the effort to shut down “rival” urban homesteading sites.

Here’s Dervaes’ defense of his trademark move:

“as the popularity of Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading increased and began to label everything from television productions to big agriculture products, we couldn’t shake the warning bells in our minds. You tell us… who would you rather own the trademarks? Us or a big business corporation?”

But Dervaes has not gone after big corporations.   He has gone after other urban homesteaders who have written books or established educational organizations, a  farmers’ market,  Facebook groups of urban homesteaders,  a library, and a community radio station.  No big guys, just little guys.  In the press release I just quoted, Dervaes ironically refers to Wikipedia to define what he is doing, rather than to anything he wrote himself.  The Wiki article has numerous links to urban homesteading sites, but only mentions Dervaes in relation to his effort to trademark the term.

Can you say “credibility gap,” boys and girls?

Some of what this story is about is that urban homesteading, as most of us who engage in or encourage the practice are aware,  is not just a set of material techniques.  The urban homesteading movement–and the rural homesteading movement,  too, for that matter–is  about creating a community, and about creating community consciousness.  The Dervaes family, in contrast, has never had much to say about creating community.

Nobody else who uses the term ” urban homesteading” has attempted to trademark it because it makes no sense to most of us to get territorial over language. Creative Commons is more our style than copyright and trademark.

At a deeper level, too, Dervaes’ ego trip demonstrates that technique is not enough.  To create a new paradigm, we need to purify our own consciousness first, or we will just end up creating the same mess we were attempting to escape.

This story also fits into a still wider question, the question of “intellectual property rights.”  I don’t have time to go deeply into this issue right now, but here’s a quickie about it:

There’s a place for intellectual property rights.  If you actually create a technology or a piece of music or a book or a photograph, you should be able to control its use.  Part of that control should certainly involve getting paid for your  effort and inspiration if somebody else is using it to make money for themselves.  It’s OK to prevent others from stealing the results of your own efforts.

Our trademark and copyright laws, however, have been taken to such an extreme that they threaten to cut us off from our cultural heritage. For instance, if you want to perform or record a Beatles song, you have to make arrangements with the estate of Michael Jackson, who bought the Beatles’ song rights in 1985.  Even if you have no plans to make money from use of a Beatles song, you must pay to perform or record it.  Never mind that Paul and John’s heirs will do fine for the rest of their lives and then some without another penny of royalties, and that most of the money actually goes to a bunch of lawyers.  You got to pay,

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, won my cheers when, in an interview on NPR, he said that he would love to buy the rights to the Beatles’ songs and release them into the public domain so that everybody could play them.  Then the economy fell apart, and it never happened, but it was one of those great radio moments.

Another example–some friends of mine are trying to put on a grassroots music festival,  which they are calling “The Black Swan Alternative Arts and Music Festival.”  It’s really more of a big open party than a commercial event, BUT they are getting hassled by ASCAP to pay royalties up front, even though most, if not all, the music that will be played will be originals, if not downright improvised on the spot, and most of the bands are playing for free.    My friends are just a couple of poor hippies trying to throw a party, and they’re getting jacked around, held to standards that are pretty irrelevant to what they’re trying to do by an outfit that, like that hapless dude in the copyright bureau, hasn’t got a clue about what’s going on out here on the other side of the cultural divide.

My standard answer to bureaucratic hassles like the Dervaes’ stink bombs and ASCAP’s legal threats is that the system that upholds such bizarre legalities is already coming apart at the seams, or, as with the mega-earthquake in Japan the other day, the fault lines, and all we have to do is be patient.

But even a creature in its death throes can do some damage.  Sometimes we can’t ignore crassness and stupidity, because they thrust themselves in our faces, our websites,  our wallets, or sometimes even our pants.  (Can you say “‘right to life'”, boys and girls?)

At such times, we have to depend on whatever level of inner peace and stability we have built into ourselves, trust that we will respond as appropriately as we can, pay close attention, and learn from what happens so that we, unlike so many in our crazed society, don’t end up doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result.

In urban homesteading, just likethe rest of life, the most important thing to cultivate is our own sanity.

music:  The Beatles, “I, Me, Me, Mine”





“SCIENCE-BASED MEDICINE”?

7 05 2010

I spent quite a bit of time last month doing something unusual for me–following the comment thread on a blog post.  The post was on a site called “Science-Based Medicine,” and its author (whose name I feel no need to repeat, as she is an avid self-promoter) seemed to be an M.D. version of Ann Coulter, full of venom about what she regarded as “unscientific” medicine and quick to make ad hominem attacks on anyone who disagreed with her.

The discussion she sparked was long and far-ranging, and so I kept reading to see if anybody had already made the points I felt were missing.  They were never addressed, but the acrimony grew so great that the blogger in question left the SBM site, and so there was no chance for me to contribute my observations in the context in which they arose.   I think they are very important considerations, and so I am presenting them here, in hopes that my point of view will be helpful to those who are in a better position than I to influence the future of medical practice in this country.

First, some disclosure: I have had a heart attack and a couple of strokes, been hospitalized for them, and am currently under an M.D.’s care and taking prescription medications.  I wish I could deal with my condition using only natural/non-prescription remedies, but my Andrew-Weil-style doctor encourages me to stay with my prescriptions, and I do.  So, while I am skeptical of mainstream medicine, I recognize that it has some value.  I might not be here without it.  In fact, the circumstances surrounding my birth, which was a C-section, make it absolutely clear that I would not be here without mainstream medicine.

Now for the critique.  I would like to begin by questioning whether our current medical model is best referred to as “science based.”  Science undoubtedly has a great deal to do with it, but I think perhaps the initials “SBM,” which the “Science-based medicine” blog uses as a kind of shorthand, should be replaced with “PBM,” with the “P” standing for pharmaceuticals, procedures, patents, profits–and petroleum.  Also, I think the “scientific” basis of modern medicine is perhaps too narrowly focussed, and a truly scientific medicine would include things currently considered “externalities,” to borrow a phrase from economics:  environmental effects, sustainability issues, and affordability.

As I read through other posts on the SBM website, I came to understand that the Ann Coulter clone had been a bit of an anomaly, and that the other bloggers on the site are much more level-headed, sincerely committed to combatting what they perceive as pseudoscience, but still lacking awareness of  my concerns about the future of medicine.

Let’s look at my first four “P’s”–pills, procedures, patents, and profits.  These are the economic foundations of modern medicine.  For-profit drug companies, whose primary obligation is a good return to their stockholders, are constantly on the lookout for new diseases to treat and new, patentable drugs to address these diseases.  Thus we have, for example,  the spectacular rise of psychiatric drugs, the widespread administration of antibiotics to farm animals, and the common use of concentrated female hormones as a method of birth control and a “treatment” for aging.

All these pharmaceutical uses were approved by the appropriate government agencies, who duly studied the scientific evidence for their efficacy and safety.  Unfortunately, we are now realizing that the studies did not go far enough.  There was no consideration of the consequences of  large amounts of these substances entering the environment–where, it turns out, they wreak havoc.  Male animals that live in estrogen-tainted water are becoming feminized; animals living in water that is a tea of mood-altering psychiatric drugs are losing their natural, and necessary, aggressive tendencies, and pervasive antibiotic use has–surprise!–led to the evolution of ever more stubbornly antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

But the expensive, extensive testing regimen that our government demands has had another unintended consequence–there is no profit in testing unpatentable herbs, and no profit in testing or promoting lifestyle counselling that will not only earn nothing for a drug company, but cost it sales as people  become less dependent on pharmaceuticals.  Insurance companies, for example, will gladly pay a doctor $1,000 or more for the minute or two it takes to insert a heart stent, but will balk at shelling out money for the time a doctor would spend helping a patient develop healthier living habits.

Admittedly,  such things are difficult to test scientifically.  People aren’t really all that much alike; fail to recognize an important variable, and test results may be meaningless.

Indeed, test results can apparently change over time.  When they were first introduced, drugs such as Prozac got high marks from double-blind tests; now, when those same tests are repeated, Prozac’s effectiveness in alleviating depression is about equal to placebo, with the ironic twist that the effects it does have sometimes lead to manic episodes that draw its users deeper into a tangled web of mental illness and psychiatric pharmaceuticals.

Can you say, “gateway drug,” boys and girls?

But the real 1,600 pound gorilla in the room with “science based medicine” is the 5th P–petroleum.  From lab research to production to promotion to distribution, mainstream medicine is deeply dependent on a substance which, according to a number of deeply concerned investigators, is about to be in much shorter supply–and increasingly shorter supply–than it has been.

As our access to petroleum diminishes, the plant-based remedies that the good doctors at SBM have so haughtily dismissed will be all that is affordable or available to most people.  The 35% C-section rate that they consider “acceptable” will, in the absence or unaffordability of hospital care, turn into a 35% death rate unless the “woo-woo,” as they call it, of the intimate bond between a midwife and a pregnant woman is thoroughly understood and appreciated.

Let me explain that a little more.  As some of you are aware, I was a participant in “The Farm” community during its heyday in the 70’s and early 80’s. Midwifery and home birthing were an integral part of our program.  The Farm’s midwives, dealing with a physically random selection of pregnant women, had a remarkably low C-section rate–1.8%.   Episiotimies were likewise rare. How did they do it?

The foundation of the Farm midwives’ birthing philosophy is “the same kind of energy that put the baby in there is the kind it takes to get the baby out.”  That doesn’t mean voluptuously erotic–just relaxed and open.  Women in labor were not hooked up to a battery of medical devices.  They were encouraged to get comfortable with their partner, if they had one. (The birthings I helped my wife through included hours of  delightful deep talk, cuddling and making out.) Nobody was in a hurry, but at the same time, the midwives were sensitive to the delivering woman’s state of mind, because doubt and fear, as much as physical discomfort, can keep a woman’s labor in check.  When psychological issues came up, there was enough trust and communication between the midwives, the mother-to-be, and if necessary, the father, to work through the blockages and get the baby moving again.

The thing about this is, that it can’t exist without the right attitude and level of sensitivity.  A “skeptic” can be incapable of perceiving what is obvious to those who are more open-minded, just as a colorblind person sees black and white where the rest of us see many colors.   There is a science to putting people at ease, but there is also an art involved, and art resists quantification.

The overall lesson, for me, from the Farm Midwives’ intense personalization of birthing, is that the relationship between the healer and the one in need of healing (although being pregnant is not in any way a “disease”) can be as important as the technique applied.  Sure, aspirin or antibiotics work no matter who gives them out, but not everything is simple.  In fact, most things aren’t simple.  We need both the science of knowing what to do and the art of knowing how to do it.

Meanwhile, our planetary gas tank is just about empty, and everything we have been doing that was based on having plenty of fuel is going to have to change.  So, if medicine is truly going to call itself “science-based,” it had best be looking to the future, and coming to a good understanding of how to transition into a post-peak oil medical practice that will know which plant-based medicines really work and be a lot more focused on lifestyle, prevention, and self-care than on thousand-dollar-a-month pills, million dollar machines,  and complex surgical procedures.  It’s not that I’m prejudiced against high-tech medicine–it’s just that it looks to me like what we know as mainstream medicine is going to become increasingly unaffordable if not downright unavailable as the cheap fuel/raw materials boom fades into history.

We are going to have to accept that medicine in the future will be much more about palliative care–that is, making people comfortable–than it will be about heroic, energy-intensive life-saving surgeries.  We are going to have to change our basic medical aim from the avoidance of death at any cost to supplying simple ways to ease suffering and teaching dignified acceptance of our inevitable exit from these fragile bodies.

Q.E.D?

music:  Grateful Dead, “Black Peter”





DIGITAL DETOX WEEK

19 04 2009

Adbusters magazine has declared this week (April 20-26) as “Digital Detox Week.”  I am taking part in this exercise and will not be online this week.  To help you get away from your monitor and out into the real world, I have disabled comments on this blog.  I will allow them again next Monday.  Have fun!








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