Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sandy Hook, Aurora, and 9/11: Fake Mourners and False Witnesses

     In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, it’s time to revisit the curious phenomenon of smiling witnesses to mass murders.  The smiling witnesses are obviously actors—and poor actors at that; but why do government officials and the corporate media need actors to play the part of witnesses to tragedy when there are plenty of real witnesses available?
     You've probably already read a few of the many anomalies surrounding the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  To give a particularly ludicrous example, the official story tells us that Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster .223 caliber AR-14 to kill all his victims and himself, after which the murder weapon was retrieved from the trunk of his mother’s car.
     (I watched that video several times and compared the image I saw with other weapons known to have been owned by the late (he supposedly killed her too) Mrs. Lanza.  The silhouette and the shell ejection port matched only one of the Lanza guns: the Bushmaster .223 caliber AR-15.)
     Of all the unbelievable aspects of the official story, the most bizarre is the smiling, grinning, jovial young man who suddenly transforms himself—on camera—into the grieving father of a slain six-year-old girl.
     Here is a timeline from the time the so-called “Robbie Parker” appears on the screen:   
8.5 seconds: He first appears on camera.  His head is tilted back as he displays a broad, teeth-baring smiling at the others on camera.  At this point, he looks as if he’s laughing.
9 seconds: He is still smiling as he swaggers toward the microphone.
10 seconds: He makes a smirking comment to someone off camera, obviously please with himself.
11 seconds: He finishes his witticism and looks down, flashing a grin that even Cameron Diaz would envy.
12 seconds: He steps up to the microphone.  His smile begins to fade.
13 seconds: His smile has faded.
14 seconds: He exhales and steps into the role of a grieving parent.
14-24 seconds: Acts as if he is choking back sobs.
24 seconds: He announces, “My name is Robbie Parker.”  Whitepages.com doesn't list that name, or anything like it for anyone of his age group in or near NewtownConnecticut.  Whitepages.com does list a Newtown resident named Robert Parker, but he is 78 years old—more than twice as old as the actor in this scene.

     The on-line Huffington Post features that same video, but they repeat the line that “Robbie Parker” was choking back tears and “struggling to catch his breath.  The Huffington shills had to have seen the same laughing and grinning that you and I saw, but their story clearly claims that “Robbie Parker’s” sobs were real.  Anyone who seriously believes that the “news” media would not lie to us should take note of Huffington’s hypocrisy in this episode. 
     Take a look at the photo and decide for yourself: Does this man look as though he’s fighting back tears and struggling to catch his breath?
     In Chinese culture, there is such a thing as a paid mourner.  Because Chinese are expected to control their feelings, even at funerals, professional mourners are hired to wail, cry, and otherwise loudly express grief.  In America, however, we have no need to pay people to grieve on our behalf.  Even in Chinese culture, the paid mourner isn't paid to masquerade as a family member of the deceased.
     Why, then, do mass murders in the United States produce fake “mourners” and false witnesses?
     Even Barack Obama could not resist the urge to act the part of a mourner.  Take a look at the following video clip and notice where Mr. Obama puts his finger, supposedly to wipe away tears.
     Before watching this video, turn the volume level to mute.  Observe only his actions.  Does he look as though he is saddened by the recent murder of 20 children?  Then turn up the volume and listen only to his tone of voice, ignoring his spoken words.  Does he sound sad?  Mr. Obama’s body language and tone of voice don’t match the speechwriter’s words.

     The “crying” was obviously fake.  Even when Obama’s critics mimicked his false crying, the critics placed their fingers where people normally would place them when wiping away tears.  Is Mr. Obama so unfamiliar with normal human emotions that he can’t do a convincing job of wiping away fake tears?
     For other examples of false (and often smiling) witnesses to mass murders, see “Why would Reporters Lie about 9/11 if the Truth is Worth a Pulitzer Prize?”  
As far as I know, the only false witnesses to the recent Aurora, Colorado, shooting were government officials and the corporate-owned media—but take a look at the sort of thing a real witness might say about a shooting that was supposedly done by a "lone nut."

     And the following is what can happen to a credible witness who is "too credible" and who "knows too much."  Jenny Gallagher was the emergency room nurse who, according to her husband, "saw everything."

     As a rule of thumb, when government officials and the corporate-owned media collude to provide false witnesses, you can be sure of three things: 1.) their testimony will also be false, 2.) their testimony will support the official story with no deviation from it whatsoever, and 3.) at least that part of the official story will be false.
     Anyone who has been intimately involved in politics from the inside knows the following adages and knows that they are true:
  1. Politics is theater,
  2. Politics, by its very nature, is conspiratorial, and
  3. In politics, nothing happens by coincidence.  If it happens, it was planned.
     It’s no coincidence that both the “Batman” shooting and the Sandy Hook shooting took place just as Congress was set to debate the issue of gun control.  (In the case of the Aurora shooting, Congress was debating a United Nations resolution on gun control.)  Nor is it a coincidence that the 9/11 mass murder provided a rationale for wars and other measures that had been planned as early as 1997.  All three incidents—and others—were staged events.
     (Note: Of all the anomalies mentioned in all the blogs I've read, no one seems to have noticed the one about the mask.  One can argue that the Batman shooter was wearing a mask because it was part of a costume; but why was “Adam Lanza” (if it were really he) wearing a mask?  I've never heard of a suicide shooter wearing a mask.  Suicide shooters know they’ll be identified after they’re dead, so they have no need to conceal their identities.  More likely, the shooters (there were more than one) and Adam Lanza’s body wore similar masks, and the real shooters got away.)
     We are left with the question, “With so many real witnesses and real families of victims, what need do the government and broadcast media have of false witnesses and fake families?”  The answer is simple: Spinmeisters have no way of knowing what a truthful witness or a real family member will say.  Fake witnesses and family members can be relied upon to follow the script.
     Take the "Harley shirt guy," who supposedly witnesses both crashes into the WTC twin towers and their collapse—apparently the only person on Earth who witnesses all four events, though he somehow missed seeing the collapse of Building #7.  He enunciated the “official story” of 9/11 before anyone had even investigated the crime.  Ask yourself, "Does anyone who has just seen more than 2,000 people die talk like the man in this video?"
     The same goes for the actor calling himself Robbie Parker.  If a real family member stood before the camera without being coached, there was too much chance that he would lash out at the fact that, by federal law, not one teacher at Sandy Hook was armed.  Since Congress was debating a ban on assault-style weapons that very week, the words of a real parent could have been a disaster for the spinmeisters.
     Take a look at the following video of the family of an apparently real victim at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The family has obviously been maneuvered into appearing on camera, apparently thinking that they were honoring their slain relative by doing so.  Meanwhile, the ghoulish interviewer Piers Morgan was clearly putting words into their mouths.  The father of the family would clearly rather be somewhere else; and, throughout the interview, he showed contempt for the entire charade.

     That’s be best the spinmeisters could do for a grieving family.  Even when the family is tricked into being cooperative, they’re not as dependable in following the script as an actor would be.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why Romney picked Paul Ryan, and Who Romney was Trying to Please by Picking Paul Ryan

     That Romney was over two weeks early in announcing his selection of a running mate was odd.  That much is a given.  To people who have seen political campaigns from the inside—such as I—it’s downright bizarre.
     Contrary to popular belief, the selection of a vice presidential candidate doesn’t help the presidential candidate.  It really doesn’t.  In fact, all it can do is hurt the candidate.  For that reason, most presidential candidates prefer to pick running mates who are virtually unknown outside their bailiwicks.  Even then, they make their picks known toward the end of the convention, when most of the excitement—and public interest—has died down.
     In my entire life, I’ve known only one occasion in which the selection of a running mate has helped the candidate.  Even then, it was for unconventional reasons.
     When George H. W. Bush was running for President in 1988, he publicly said that he would pick a running mate who would show the nation what high standards Bush was setting for his administration.  Instead, he picked an effete, over-privileged, bumbling oaf who, to this day, makes me wonder why dumb blondes are always depicted as female. 
     A political insider explained to me that the selection of Quayle was campaign strategist Lee Atwater’s idea.  Quayle was a rabbit for the Democrats to chase.  The Democrats spent so much of their time laughing at Quayle that they neglected to attack Bush, who was little more than a résumé wearing a suit. Lackluster Bush laughed all the way to the White House. 
     Mitt Romney’s strategists couldn’t possibly be so uninformed as to think that the early selection of a running mate would make him more popular with voters.  Who, then, did they expect to please?
     To answer that question, we need look no further than Romney and the “man” he picked.  Mitt Romney’s unconventional timing in his selection of Paul Ryan was intended to please Wall Street’s trillion-dollar embezzlers and other malefactors of great wealth.  It was an early signal that he is most certainly their man—one who will keep the cash spigot pumping our money to Wall Street, keep America’s wars of aggression going at full throttle, and complete the Bush/Obama agenda of shredding the Constitution and trampling American liberties.
     Paul Ryan has been almost consistently in favor of interventionism where America has no business, Wall Street embezzlement with no accountability, and a shredding of the United States Constitution. 
     As witness to this, take a look at how he voted on the following issues (Source: On the Issues) 
     May 2001: Voted YES on requiring states to test students. 
     October 2001: Voted YES on spending $99 billion of our money on an “economic stimulus” for bankers and other fat cats.
     October 2002: Voted YES on authorizing military force in Iraq.
     April 2003: Voted YES on spending $78 billion of our money for the fraudulent and illegal wars in Iraq & Afghanistan.
     March 2004: Voted YES on approving removal of Saddam, which was against international law.
     October 2004: Voted YES on adopting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, whitewashing the whole affair.
     February 2005: Voted YES on federalizing rules for driver licenses. The excuse given for this attack on American freedom is that it was intended “to hinder terrorists.”
     July 2005: Voted NO on deterring foreign arms transfers to China.  (Like, who needs Taiwan anyway?)
     April 2006: Voted YES on continuing intelligence gathering without civil oversight.
     June 2006: Voted YES on declaring Iraq part of War on Terror with no exit date.
     September 2006: Voted YES on allowing electronic surveillance without a warrant.
    January 2007: Voted NO on removing oil and gas exploration subsidies; that is, voted YES on continuing to subsidize oil and gas companies to the tune of up to $15 billion a year while the top five oil and gas companies were making profits close to $100 billion a year.  (Source)
    May 2007: Voted NO on redeploying US troops out of Iraq starting in 90 days.
    August 2007: Voted YES on removing need for FISA warrant for wiretapping abroad.
    November 2007: Voted NO on regulating the subprime mortgage industry, thereby helping to cause the subprime mortgage crisis and ensuing Great Recession.
     June 2008: Voted YES on retroactive immunity for telecoms' warrantless surveillance.
     June 2008: Voted NO on investigating Bush impeachment for lying about Iraq.   Actually, it was an incredible series of lies: weapons of mass destruction, connections to the CIA front al Qaeda, being accessories to 911, and so on.  The war, which was highly profitable to Bush cohorts, killed over 600,000 civilians and made refugees of 4,000,000 others.
     December 2008: Voted YES on $15B bailout for GM and Chrysler.  As one of the provisions of this bill, the corporations got a bailout, but hundreds of GM and Chrysler dealers lost their dealerships.  See the above video debunking GM's claim that they had repaid the  money "early and in full."  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOaS2SymjQ4
     January 2009: Voted NO on monitoring TARP funds to ensure more mortgage relief.  In other words, he voted YES on “no accountability for the trillions of dollars embezzled from the American taxpayers and sent to Wall Street.” Here's a video of Paul Ryan shamelessly begging Congress to pass TARP.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyJBZYz858M

     March 2009: Voted NO on modifying bankruptcy rules to avoid mortgage foreclosures; that is, if Wall Street wants your house, they’re entitled to it.
     July 2009: Voted YES on $192B additional anti-recession stimulus spending.  You didn’t see any of that money, did you?  The money didn’t go to the needy; it went to the greedy, on your credit card.
     March 2011: Voted NO on removing US armed forces from Afghanistan
     February 2011: Voted YES on extending the PATRIOT Act's roving wiretaps.
     September 2011: Voted NO on military border patrols to battle drugs and terrorism.  This essentially means that he voted NO on military border patrols. 
     On many issues, Paul Ryan voted quite reasonably.  It’s not the percentage of votes that counts, however.  What counts is the net result of the votes.
     Let’s say, for example, a congressman voted against 100 needless bills that would have had a total cost of several billion dollars, yet he voted for a half dozen highly dangerous bills that had a total cost of several trillion dollars.
     Let’s say he voted for dozens of bills that were consistent with our social or religious views, yet he voted for a few that presumed to authorize the government to spy into your email accounts, record your telephone conversations, and label you a domestic terrorist if you assert your constitutionally guaranteed rights.
     Let’s say he voted for dozens of cost-cutting measures but put us in debt to the tune of over thirty trillion dollars for the benefit of the big banks and the military industrial complex.  Let’s say he further voted against measures that would require accountability as to how those missing trillions were spent.
     There you have Paul Ryan.  You also have all the evidence needed to show who Mitt Romney was trying to please when he picked Ryan as his running mate several weeks before it was necessary.  However he may posture as an adequate substitute for Ron Paul, he's still very much in the pockets of the Wall Street kleptocracy.  Dan Quayle would have been an improvement.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Travel and Tourism with a Purpose

     A few months ago I requested and was assigned a class in Travel and Tourism English.  As I had expected, every available textbook at my students’ level offered a lot of vocabulary words to use in conversation about going on vacation.
     That’s important, of course, but I wanted more than that.  I wanted to broaden students’ understanding of other peoples and cultures.  I wanted them to see that environmental responsibility goes much further than demanding that governments force “somebody else out there” to accept responsibility for making the world a cleaner and healthier place.  And as the Christian song goes, “Let there be peace, and let it begin with me.”
     There are types of tourism that promote understanding among different groups of people and that promote awareness of our environmental responsibilities.  What I found, though, is that in most cases these forms of tourism don’t have a vocabulary that has traction.  Term such as new tourism and alternative tourism make these forms of tourism sound strange.  By contrast, the default form of tourism known as mass tourism sounds as though it’s more popular because it’s somehow better than “new” or “alternative.”
     I would need both a new approach and a new vocabulary for what I will teach.  I believe I have found both.  "Mass tourism" has become "glass bubble tourism;" alternative tourism is now "full contact tourism."  The video series is called Paradigmaclast.  BTW, all but one other Internet site spells the word "paradigmoclast," but I disagree with that spelling.  The Greek word for paradigm is paradigma, with an a.
     With a four-week trial offer of a video converter, I spent almost a month downloading hundreds of videos and converting them to WMV format.  I spent the next few weeks using Moviemaker to pick them apart to use as video resources.  Then I spent more than a month creating eight lessons in video format—107 minutes in all.  These lessons are intended to supplement the textbook rather than replace it.  Future video lessons should take much less time to generate, as they will be more in-depth—thus, the number of clips in each video will be fewer and longer.
     In several respects, my strategy involved a perilous navigation between Scylla and Charybdis.   I’ll spare y’all the details.  In the end, though, I took what appears to be a simple approach: showing them just enough about other cultures to cause some of them to want to know more.  Entertainment rather than logical suasion is the vehicle that drives this strategy.
     Below are the first eight lessons.  Just click on the link.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The 9/11 Commission Report versus the Official Narrative of 9/11

     What if the 9/11 Commission Report failed to support the “official” narrative of 9/11? What if the 9/11 Commission Report flatly contradicted the “official” narrative of 9/11? 
     The 9/11 Commission Report in our time has several things in common with the Bible during the Middle Ages. We’re told that the 9/11 Commission Report has authority that must not be questioned—that it should be accepted entirely on faith. Some people do question it, and they’re scorned for it. Very few people have actually read it. (During the Middle Ages, few people read the Bible for themselves because they were unable to do so. In our time, very few people have read the 9/11 Commission Report because they choose not to do so.) 
       In both cases, not reading the book in question is no barrier to expressing opinions on it; because, in both cases, we have earthly authorities claiming to tell us what it says. During the Middle Ages, it was the Catholic Church; in our time, it’s the corporate-owned “news” media. 
     Over the past few months, I’ve been doing what heretics have done in every century; I’ve been studying a supposedly sacrosanct book for myself. In this case, it’s the 9/11 Commission Report. I haven’t finished my study of the report, but I’d like to share with y’all some of what I've found. You probably won’t be surprised at the news, but you’ll almost certainly be surprised that these items came from the 9/11 Commission Report. 
      I’ll share other items as I assemble them in readable form. The introduction begins with a news article on page ix. The title of the article is “HOUSE GIVES WAY ON A SEPT. 11 COMMISSION; CONGRESS IS SET TO CREATE IT.” Here are some excerpts from the December 17, 2002 article: 
     “Yielding to intense pressure from families of Sept. 11 victims, the White House agreed last night to a Congressional compromise that would create an independent commission to investigate the terrorist attacks…. 
      “The 10-member commission…is intended to be unflinching in assigning blame for specific government failures…. 
      “Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, said…that the administration was stalling on the plan because it could not control the commission’s eventual findings.” [Emphasis mine] 
     On page xv, we see the headline, “9/11 COMMISSION SAYS U.S. AGENCIES SLOW ITS INQUIRY.” The article says in part: 
      “The [9/11 Commission] said…that its work was being hampered by the failure of executive branch agencies, especially the Pentagon and the Justice Department, to respond quickly to requests for documents and testimony. 
      “The panel also said the failure of the Bush administration to allow officials to be interviewed without the presence of government colleagues could impede its investigation, the commission’s chairman suggesting today that the situation amounted to “intimidation” of the witnesses…. 
     “[The] commission’s Republican chairman and Democratic vice chairman… [declared] that they had received only a small part of the millions of sensitive government documents they have requested from the executive branch…. 
     “[The] commission’s leaders said that federal agencies under Mr. Bush’s control were not cooperating quickly or fully….The coming weeks will tell whether we will be able to do our job within the time allotted.” [Emphasis mine. By the way, the official beginning of the investigation was November 27. I have no explanation for the dateline for the above article.] 
     On page xvi, we read that, on October 26, 2003, the commission threatened to subpoena the necessary files from Bush’s executive branch. Remember that the Commission was authorized to investigate 9/11 for eighteen months. By this time, eleven months had already passed. 
     The next two articles (on pages xvii and xviii) cover events of November 13 and December 4. The first tells us that the Bush administration, in order to avoid a lawsuit, agreed to giving the Commission “limited access” to the documents. It said in part, “[Panel] officials said the pact imposed substantial limits on access….” 
      The 9/11 Commission issued a subpoena for New York City’s records related to 9/11, saying that the city’s refusal “significantly impeded” their investigation. Two weeks later, on December 4, Mayor Bloomberg agreed to give the Commission access to the documents. In early February 2004, President Bush agreed to extend the investigation for another two months, until late July (xix). 
     In a March 31 article (xx), Bush agreed to allow National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to publicly testify under oath. Here’s a video clip of Rice lying under oath to the 9/11 Commission:
     The quotes you just read came from just the first few pages of the 9/11 Commission Report. The rest of the book is chock full of findings that cast doubt on the official version of events as told by the corporate-owned media. As I further sift through it and arrange information for future articles, I’ll make further reports. 
     For now, let me jump ahead a few hundred pages and offer you a quote for comparison. On May 16, 2002, Condoleezza Rice, who would later under oath to the 9/11 Commission, famously said, “I don't think that anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile." From many, many sources, you already know that that statement was a lie. Did you also know that the 9/11 Commission Report exposed Rice’s lie before anybody else did? Read this quote from page 394 of the 9/11 Commission Report, referring to a conversation that took place in late August or early September 2001:      
     “There was substantial disagreement between Minneapolis agents and FBI headquarters as to what Moussaoui was planning to do. In one conversation, between a Minneapolis supervisor and a headquarters agent, the latter complained that Minneapolis’s FISA [Foreign Intelligence Service Act] request was couched in a manner intended to get people ‘spun up.’ The supervisor replied that was precisely his intent. He said he was ‘trying to keep someone from taking a plane and crashing into the World Trade Center.’ The headquarters agent replied that this was not going to happen and that they did not know if Moussaoui was a terrorist.” [Emphasis mine.] 
      The American Action Report warmly welcomes the 9/11 Commission into the ranks of kooky conspiracy theorists. As time allows, I’ll share some of their other rants with y’all. In the meantime, I encourage y’all to read the report for yourselves.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mythical Beings that Inhabit the Matrix, Part 5: Teachers

     School, we are told, prepares young minds for life in the world of adults—commonly called real life. Oh? What kind of life is that? To answer that question, we have to take a look at what happens in a typical classroom in most countries that we call “advanced.”
     There is a saying, “He who wills the means wills the end.” If you want to know to what end “education” has in mind, just take a look at the means by which this end is reached.
     First of all, students are arranged in a rectangular group facing an authority figure called a teacher. For twelve years or longer, these pliable young minds are supposed to look to the authority figure to shape their beliefs concerning nearly everything.
     Taking notes is vital. No questions are to be asked except for clarification or further detail. Questioning the accuracy of the authority figure’s assertions risks such labels as “disciplinary problem” or an acronym-style label that can be punished with psychotropic drugs.
     This regimen is reinforced by progressive steps that are continuously repeated in cycles.
     Let’s say, for example, that the subject is geography. Let me lead you through the routine.
     Most students would be delighted to learn about people in other parts of the world, their cultures, and their concerns; but, like most other subjects, geography isn’t about gaining understanding. It’s about learning to look to authority figures for what you’re told to believe. It’s about making this mind-numbing experience an ingrained part of your existence.
     Each day, the child is told things to write down and memorize. Each day, he is issued a task called homework, in which he reads and memorizes but is never supposed to question. It doesn’t matter what he memorizes. What matters is that he learns not to question what he is told.
     For example, the child is told that Easter Island’s highest point is 507 meters above sea level. He’s not told that, due to gravitational pull of the moon and the sun, and due to the turning of the earth, sea level near the equator is higher than sea level at the poles. What we call sea level is an entirely arbitrary number based on what is considered sea level at Cornwall, England. Why is the sea level of Easter Island measured according to where the sea is in Cornwall rather than the actual level of the sea at Easter Island?
     For that matter, the concept of meters is as arbitrary as the agreed-upon concept of sea level. As for Easter Island itself, the locals call it Rapa Nui. Why is the child taught to call it by a name that the locals don’t use?
     Even when the information they’re taught isn’t entirely arbitrary, it’s often entirely useless.
     What does it matter that the capital of Alaska is Juneau? From 1901 to 1906, the capital city was Sitka. I don't know or care what it was before that.  What does it matter that the capital of Brazil is Brasilia? Until 1960, it was Rio de Janeiro. If the location of the capital isn’t sacrosanct to the people of Alaska and Brazil, why should it be all that important to the students? If we care to know those things, don’t we have the Internet?
     It isn’t important. What is important is that the students memorize and be able to repeat, without question, anything the authority figure tells them. By doing this, they develop a credulous nature and avoid learning to think for themselves.
     Once they’ve memorized all this, the drill is reinforced by taking quizzes. The quizzes almost invariably take the form of multiple choice questions or filling in blank spaces. The authority figure refrains from asking discussion questions or any other questions that require higher order thinking skills. After all, while the students are learning the 4R’s (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic—never mind spelling), they’re absorbing the 3D’s: deliberate dumbing down.
     The mind-numbing exercises of quizzes are reinforced by tests, which, in turn, are reinforced by exams. Children who unquestioningly memorize what they’ve been told are rewarded with higher grades. Children who give answers contrary to what the authority figure has told them—even when the authority figure is mistaken—are punished with lower grades. Children who make a habit of questioning the authority figure are remanded to a charlatan who has them medicated with mind-altering drugs that may lead to such violent behavior as school shootings.
     Isn’t all this supposed to prepare children for life as adults? To whose benefit is all this?
     If real life is a multiple choice test, it’s a test in which each question has dozens of right answers and hundreds of wrong answers rather than one right answer and four wrong ones. In real life, wrong answers rarely receive lifelong punishment. In real life, we learn from mistakes; and, often, failure is the mother of success. In school, children are punished for asking others for answers. In real life, we benefit from asking others.
     As such, real life is student centered, cooperative learning, and project based learning with emphasis on authenticity. As schooling should be preparation for real life and not real life itself, project lessons should be scaffolded—that is, guided in increments. If school really were intended as preparation for real life, that’s the way it would be structured. That’s the way I try to structure my classes.
     On the other hand, the late George Carlin had a serious point: “The real owners of this country don’t want people with critical thinking skills. They want people who are just smart enough to run the machines but too dumb to ask questions.”
     I want my students to question what I tell them. I want them to think for themselves. I want to prepare them for a real life in which they have control over their lives instead of having to look uncritically to such bogus authority figures as news reporters, politicians, government bureaucrats, materialistic pastors, and—yes—school teachers.
     I am grateful to teachers who taught me the value of thinking, and who guided me in the process—teachers such as George Reeves, Ted Peters, Jack Montgomery, Pat Rydz, and others. Looking back, I can scarcely believe how credulous I once was. I suspect that I still have far to go.
     In the video below, you'll see ESL (English as a Second Language) students of whom five teachers and an administration official said to me, "Don't expect too much of them.  Their level is very low, and they're not very motivated."  For their mid-term exam in English Conversation, I assigned them to teach the class in English for at least ten minutes.  

     Since then, I have assigned students to create documentary videos for first semester final exams.  Here's one:
     That's not bad, especially considering that I had to ignore the advice, "Don't expect too much of these students.  Their level is very low, and they're not motivated."

     There’s a big world of options outside Plato’s Cave. I’ve caught a glimpse of that world and want to see more of it. I’m still searching. I want to show it to others.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Mythical Beings that Inhabit the Matrix, Part 4: Doctors

     In another article (link), I pointed out that medical school is an extended infomercial for the drug industry. In this article, I’ll describe how patients and doctors collude on jacking up the cost of medical care in the United States and some other countries. No, I’m not suggesting that patients deliberately shortchange themselves by telling doctors how they can make medical care more expensive. I’m suggesting that there are many superstitions surrounding concepts of Western medical care, and doctors’ customers—many of them shouldn’t be called patients—are so swept up in these superstitions that they demand that doctors adhere to them. Some of these superstitions are as follows:
1. There’s a medicine for every person’s ailment.
2. Every medicine designed to treat a given ailment is equally effective on all patients who have that ailment.
3. Medicines necessarily cure diseases.
4. Medicines are the only cures for diseases.
5. Only a quack would let a patient leave his office without a prescription.
6. The quality of medical care is best measured by the number of prescriptions or other treatments the doctor prescribes.
     Ordinarily, I don’t even take an aspirin for a headache or cough syrup for a cold. A few weeks ago, though, I had such a bad cold that I went to a doctor. After examining me, he wrote a prescription for four drugs, and not one of them was cough syrup. That wasn’t an exceptional case.
     With taxpayer subsidized medical care around here, it’s not unusual for someone to leave a doctor’s office with six prescriptions. I don’t know of even one doctor who would dare tell a customer, “You don’t need medicine. You need rest, plenty of liquids, and a balanced diet. Once you’re well, you need to get more exercise. You’re a slob.”
     That would never happen. Any doctor who prescribes commonsense treatments for ailments would be immediately labeled a quack. Just how effective is medicine, anyway? 
     According to one article I read and couldn’t find again, only a third of all medical prescriptions are effective. Under the best of conditions, when a drug is approved for medical use, that’s because it has been shown effective in certain cases—usually severe cases. If you don’t have a severe case of something, it’s useless to take a medicine that’s effective only in severe cases.
     Nonetheless, the superstition persists that a medicine that’s effective in treating one person’s ailment is just as effective in treating everyone else who has that ailment or an ailment similar to it. Few people want the doctor to tell them that there’s no medicine that will do them any good.
     In many cases, the customer’s complaint is really just a complaint and not a symptom or a disease. Let me give you an example of the difference. If you feel sluggish, you have trouble breathing, and your head hurts, those are complaints. If you have a high temperature, dry throat, and chest congestion, those are symptoms. If the doctor tells you that you have the flu, he’s telling you that you have a disease. If your heart stops beating, your body assumes room temperature, and your muscles become rigid, a prescription is useless. Let’s take a couple of common complaints.
     One customer complains of sleeplessness, which he self-diagnoses as insomnia. Actually, insomnia is just a fancy word for a complaint known as sleeplessness. The other customer complains of being tense and irritable due to pressures at work. Does either of them need drugs? Probably not. Sometimes insomnia is due to less need for sleep. In most other cases, it’s due to distractions that can be shut out; thinking about them makes the sleeplessness worse. In either case, insomnia is nothing to lose sleep over. As for tension and irritability due to pressures at work, school, or elsewhere, prescription drugs—psychotropic, or mind-altering, drugs—almost always do more harm than good. I’ve never heard of a case in which anything good came of these classes of drugs for tension or depression.
     Rather than offering you a prescription written in Latin, you’d be better off getting one written in three words of plain English: “Deal with it.” If you insist on the prescription being written in Latin, maybe the doctor can please you by writing, “Illigitimi non carborundum,” which is faux Latin for, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
     I’m sure that a lot of doctors’ customers would rankle at the suggestion that they should eat well and otherwise learn to take responsibility for their lives instead of looking for drugs to treat their symptoms. Yes, I said, “Symptoms.” In all but a few cases, most drugs do nothing to treat diseases; they treat only symptoms. Most doctors are honest enough to admit this fact to their customers, but ingrained superstitions die hard. Drug customers still insist on a drug that will “cure” them.
     Another ingrained superstition that refuses to die is the belief that a doctor is not a doctor unless he’s a celebrity spokesman for the drug industry. Caveat vendor—let the seller beware: If drug customers don’t get the drugs they crave, they’ll just look for another pusher. That’s just the way the drug industry wants things to be. Here are some interesting statistics and links to the information used to obtain them:
1. Physicians are 9,000 times as deadly as gun owners. (link)
2. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, after alcohol and tobacco. Fourth and fifth are traffic accidents and gun violence. (link)
3. Taking the lowest estimate of how many Americans are killed by medical malpractice each year (120,000), American doctors kill over twice as many people each year as the Mexican Drug War has killed in the last five years. (link) 
4. Over 106,000 Americans die each year just from the side effects of prescription drugs “properly prescribed and properly administered.” That’s twice the number of Americans killed in traffic accidents. Over 2,000,000 Americans suffer “serious side effects” from these “properly prescribed and properly administered” drugs.  (link) and (link) 
5. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Americans die from illegal drugs each year.  (same source as #4)
6. Of 100 U.S. medical schools, 75 of the offer fewer than 25 hours of instruction in nutrition—usually interspersed with instruction in non-nutrition courses. Only one fourth of all U.S. medical schools offer even one course in nutrition. One U.S. medical school offers no nutritional instruction at all. (link) 
     The bottom line is, doctors are not in the healthcare business. They’re in the business of treating injuries and symptoms. If you want healthcare, see a nutritionist or a practitioner of "alternative medicine” (a.k.a. a traditional healer).
     See parts 1 through 4 of this series:
     "Mythical Beings that Inhabit the Matrix, Part 1: News Reporters"
     "Mythical Beings that Inhabit the Matrix, Part 2: Politicians"
     "Mythical Beings that Inhabit the Matrix, Part 3: Pastors"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mythical Beings that Inhabit the Matrix, Part 3: Pastors

     In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I described how people deceive themselves into believing that news reporters and politicians are all-wise, all-knowing workers of miracles on our behalf. Pastors, by and large, are a strange breed of cat. Most of them, usually through omission but sometimes through outright distortions, deny that our Creator performs miracles, yet they do nothing to dispute the notion that keepers of the matrix are continuously working miracles on our behalf. Most pastors are unconscious participants in the Establishment’s schemes to shear the sheeple.
     Let’s look at the issue of miracles first. Then we’ll get to the matter of how pastors help shear the flock.
     During my formative years, I was taught certain things about praying for people who were seriously ill or injured. I was taught certain other things about praying for the terminally ill and mortally injured.
     I was taught to ask the Lord to heal that person, and to make the prayer in the name of our Savior. If the person was terminally ill or mortally injured, I was taught to pray for a miracle on that person’s behalf. If the Lord’s answer to the prayer turned out to be, “No,” I was to accept His wisdom.
     That’s not what I see these days. Nowadays, when someone is seriously ill or injured, some nut gets up and prays that the Lord will “give the doctor wisdom” in healing that person. Is that the best they can do? Aren’t doctors already supposed to know what they’re doing when they treat a patient?
     When someone is terminally ill or mortally injured, nuts similarly pray for comfort and peace in accepting that person’s unavoidable, imminent death. Even pastors and missionaries are not exempt from this foolishness.
     When people are afraid to ask the Lord for things that only the Lord can do, I question whether they truly believe in Him. To most pastors and missionaries I’ve met over the past twenty years, our Creator is not so much a reality as He is a metaphor for an overly rigid and intolerant façade of morality. I call it a façade because many of these doubters are Pharisees who make a show of refraining from things they are never tempted to do, while excusing themselves for their lack of justice, mercy, faith, and honesty.
     We are told that the Lord no longer performs miracles, because people today don’t need miracles. Who is more in need of miracles, people who believe in them or people who don’t?
     A doubter once said that a miracle is the suspension of the laws of the entire universe on behalf of just one person who admittedly does not deserve it. This definition is presented as “proof” that a belief in miracles is absurd. Quite to the contrary, I see it as evidence of our Lord’s infinite love for each person.
     At one place I had worked, a newly minted medical doctor taught math for a year before formally entering the medical profession. On one occasion, she was asked to pray for a seriously ill person. Of course this got my attention, as I wondered how a medical doctor would handle a prayer of that nature. To her credit, she avoided the foolishness of praying that the doctor doesn’t foul things up. She prayed simply that the Lord heal that person—which is what a believer would be reasonably expected to do.
     Since then, I observed that medical doctors seem more inclined to believe in miracles than pastors and missionaries are.
     I promised to tell how pastors facilitate robbery. Let me take you on a trip down Memory Lane.
     I once read a book variously called Meditations, To Myself, and other titles, written by Marcus Aurelius. He stressed the virtue of seeing the essence of things and not being taken in by embellishments that people imagine them to have. Basically, he was espousing the virtue of simplicity. I remembered the lesson, especially since it somewhat resembled the thoughts of Henry David Thoreau in Walden; but, at the time, I didn’t internalize it.
     Years later, I read a book called The Teaching of Buddha, in which the sage taught virtue of simplicity as a means to contentment. My first thought was, Didn’t Marcus Aurelius and Henry David Thoreau say the same things? Then I thought, Wait a minute! Didn’t Jesus say the same things?
     I immediately turned to the Sermon on the Mount and read it. It was there. In short order, I realized that the Bible—particularly the New Testament—is filled with admonitions for us to live simple, practical lives. My next thought was scathing: Why have I never heard this in church?
     I have often heard that the teachings of Jesus were meant to provoke thought but were impractical, even during the first century. What if that’s a lie? What if Jesus really meant what He said?
     Practicality is a flexible term. Whether something is practical depends on what you most value. 
     Every pastor I have known has preached to us on how to live “good” lives without ever leaving the matrix called Western Civilization. Within the matrix, we’re expected to be “good” consumers and set “good” examples for non-Christians and lure them into the Western Civilization matrix, so that they can become “good” consumers of corporate products and services. They don’t say that in so many words, but their omissions speak volumes.
     We are reminded of a verse from First Timothy, saying that women should be modestly dressed, but we’re told that the second half of the verse is irrelevant. That’s the part that prohibits the wearing of costly jewelry or other ostentatious adornment. (link to relevant verses) Anyone following that commandment would be a poor consumer of corporate goods and services..
     We are reminded of Genesis 2:26, in which the Lord commanded us to “subdue” and “govern” the earth, but I have never heard even one sermon outlining what responsibilities this command entails. Some pastors have told me that the Bible doesn’t specifically say anything about our environmental responsibilities but that we should respect the environment as the Lord’s creation. The truth is, I have found enough Bible verses on the environment to fill a single-spaced, 75-page book. What’s wrong with our seminaries that pastors are unaware of even one of these verses?
     Some religious denominations exist outside the matrix. They include the Amish and the Pentecostals. There are probably others, and “respectable” Christians are taught to avoid becoming like them.
     Let me repeat an earlier question: “What if Jesus really meant what He said?"
     To read other articles in this series, see "Mythical Beings that Inhabit the Matrix, Part 1: News Reporters," "Mythical Beings that Inhabit the Matrix, Part 2: Politicians," and "Mythical Beings that Inhabit the Matrix, Part 4: Doctors." 
     In the coming days, watch for part 5 in the series.