Saturday, May 25, 2013

The American Devolution: Where Right went Wrong

A little religion and politics today... Stay with me here. I only want to share some of the revelations I've had and conclusions I've drawn recently. I am not expecting a round of head nodding agreement or opinions to be swayed necessarily - food for thought, that's all...

To lay some ground work, I was born into a lower middle class, upper midwest Catholic family that was headed by strong union "Humphrey" Democrats. If I heard it once I heard it a million times - the Democrats are for the little guy and the Republicans are for big business. That neatly summarizes what I was exposed to at an early age on the topics of politics and religion.

The tumultuous 1970's were a transformational time in America, more so than the 50's or the 60's. Everyone's roles were changing. Everyone and everything was changing, including political affiliations and religious values. I was teenager during the 70's when the working class was seeing the first wave of job exports and wives were being shoved into the work force by necessity. Recession, gas shortages, women's lib and long-haired hippies every where. What a time.

Culminating in America putting a man on the moon the triumph of  science drove the final nails in the coffin of Christendom. It seemed clear modern man didn't need the church anymore. Concurrently the shame of Vietnam and Watergate destroyed any trust modern Americans had in their national government. Until then courageous government leadership had saved the country more than once. Johnson and the Democrats misguided waging of the war in Southeast Asia boiled over on the streets of inner city America. The people were ashamed and disgusted. This followed by Nixon and the Republicans who gave us round the clock scandal ending in the first American President resigning his post. The people were disgusted and angry. One could not be blamed for thinking the end of the republic was near.

There you have it, God and country were dying before our eyes.

Coming of age around 1980 I was old enough to vote and old enough to decide whether I went to church on Sundays or not. Church was already in the rear-view mirror and the voting booth was dead ahead. I wasn't a liberal or a conservative - I was a dummy. The first time I stepped into the voting booth my choices for President were President Jimmy Carter - failure - Ronald Reagan - scary - and John Anderson - righteous. I voted for Anderson.

By the time 1984 rolled around I was married, owned a house and was working 3 jobs. The sting of the recession and the tax man was still fresh when I walked into the voting booth. Despite my Democrat upbringing and hometown boy Walter Mondale opposing President Reagan I pulled the lever for the Republican. It was the drastic upward change in the mood of the country and the direction of the economy that lead to Reagan's landslide victory that year. There was a ray of hope that America wasn't over. The right was on the rise. Despite the obvious opposition from the frivolous left the real problem for the right-wing was the courtship between conservatism and Christendom. It plagues the right to this day.

Christendom is the term given to the marriage of church and state ushered in by edict of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. Christians no longer forced to operate on the margins of society became the center and melded with the power of the state. For fifteen centuries Christendom went around the globe conquering the world in the name of Christ. Most if not all the horrendous and negative things associated with Christianity was a result of this drunken power. Lost in all this was the Jesus Christ of the gospels.

The reformation divided Christendom, but ultimately Rome was simply replaced by protestant/state collusions like the Lutherans in Gaul and the Anglicans in Britain. It was a desire to be free from the persecution of the church/state that drove so many Europeans across the ocean to the new world, to America. It was with the implied promise of the separation of church and state that made the birth of a brand new republic so appealing to millions. The French and American revolutions were the opening salvos in slaying of the church/state alliance. By the early nineteenth century Christendom was dying.

There can be no doubt that a huge part of the success of the United States of America was due to the concept of freedom of religion and the implied separation of church and state, still no one can deny that despite the desire to be free of Christendom's grip European immigrants brought it with them. This is not to say that Christendom is the root of all evil. Christianity was never meant rule society, it was meant to rule the heart. Many a good thing came out of the Church as it were, but any good was often overshadowed by the bad. 

By the time Christendom was all but dead all over the West the rise of the new and insidious ruling authority was upon us. This authority was diametrically opposed to religion - Judeo/Christian religion to be precise. At first this phenomenon was thought of as just plain silly, but it's power grew rapidly and it knew no bounds. The left-wing embraced it whole-heartedly. It used a inkling of common decency to hook it's claws into everything until common sense was rendered uncommon. It had achieved ultimate sway when truth didn't matter anymore. The new religion of Political Correctness is now the absolute ruling authority over this land and all of the West. 

The left combined lofty ideals and the power of their brethren in the mainstream media and government bureaucracy to use PCism to silence and/or bludgeon anyone opposed to them. Under their breath they often winced at the illogic and dishonesty of PCism, but it suits them for now and it's a useful tool in their arsenal against Christendom and the right.

Where the right went wrong was tying itself to a dying Christendom instead of the values of Jesus Christ of the gospels. Anything in its death throes appears ugly. It is so easy for the left with their partners in the media to tie all the ugliness of Christendom to the right-wing thus turning off a huge slice of potential supporters who find leftism and PCism wholly distasteful. How many times do you interact with people who have no time for "organized religion" but are decent, loving and even conservative people? These people often actually agree with center/right opinions on issue after issue especially if you can keep the concept of left and right out of the discussion. As soon as you tie the issue to a particular politician or party their mood changes and they sneer or bristle at the right-winger. If you dig further it always comes back to their revulsion of religion or the sins of Christendom.

Issue by issue Christendom's negative attributes combined with chest thumping nationalism is portrayed in the ugliest light possible and tied to the right-wing. Any beauty and truth is purposely hidden. PCism's dishonesty and lies are couched in lofty, idealistic rhetoric that seems all so righteous until taken apart. It is never taken apart in the mainstream media or by the left. Therefore the right-wing, Christianity and conservatism is all about hatred, discrimination and racism. The progressive left and is about harmony, tolerance and inclusion.

The thing about PCism and its totalitarianism is that it is ultimately self destroying, it will eventually turn on even those who embrace it. The problem is - PCism will take everything down with it. A story for another day.

Eventually we returned to the Church, going to Mass on Sundays and sending our kids to Catholic school. All the while we sensed something was seriously wrong with the Church.We would drive by one of these so-called non-denominational Mega Churches and marvel at the overflow parking every Sunday. Our little Catholic church would be 2/3 empty Mass after Mass. We were often treated to interim immigrant priests whose english was barely passable. The reality was they were just going through the motions every week and so were we. Another Sunday driving past the Mega Church had us wondering what they were doing in there? What we didn't realize at the time was that we were attending a dying Church, a dying system and these Mega Churches represented some of the pieces being picked up.

My wife was first to bail. She just didn't feel it anymore. They had driven out the one priest we had come to love. We never knew why. I continued to go for a few years by myself, but even I lost interest. The priest sex abuse scandals was the last straw.

I had long since given up on Democrats and was voting Republican almost exclusively. More so because the left-wing was so off putting I couldn't support one damn thing they were doing, right or wrong. The Republican's on the other hand were so stupid and incapable of articulating anything but anger that even though they were absolutely right on some key issues even I didn't believe in them. Their constant drumbeat of nationalism couched in patriotism and religiosity was nauseating even to someone like me who supported them. The political right clutching onto Christendom was a natural output of the monumental struggle against global communism. It may or may not have been helpful in that fight, but it was an albatross around their neck in the battle against Political Correctness and the far left.

So I had been set adrift. My Church had lost me, my political slant had fallen on it's face and the country, the economy were in the hands of something unrecognizable to me. Finally a light bulb came on in my darkened skull...

One day we decided to going into the local Mega Church. The next Sunday we went back - and the Sunday after that. Now we knew what was going on in there. These people were striving to be followers of Jesus Christ. The Christ of the gospels, not the warrior God we had been worshiping all our lives. In five weeks I learned more about my faith than I had in fifty years of going to Mass.

Revelations. The Church (the universal church) is in transition. Christendom is dead and though confusing and chaotic it's a good thing. As followers of Christ being tolerant, inclusive, forgiving, loving and self sacrificial aren't phony politically correct platitudes. They are what we're called upon to do, personally, every where and with everyone. Whereas the hard-core left spewing these virtues while reaching into our pockets to pay for their good feelings is not genuine.

Imagine if the right-wing, who claims to "be for" all of these things actually practiced in word and deed tolerance, inclusiveness, forgiveness and self sacrificial love along with their stances supporting personal liberty, private property and free markets. How would phony baloney political correctness stand up to that? It couldn't

But I could be wrong....


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Game is Rigged: Episode 1

I read with great interest an April 25, 2013 Time Magazine article describing an incredible discovery that might, just might spell the end of insulin injections for the treatment of diabetes. From the halls of Harvard's Stem Cell Institute Doug Melton and postdoctoral fellow Peng Yi have discovered the hormone betatrophin, which quite simply has the potential to improve by leaps and bounds ongoing treatment for type 2 diabetics.

There's a catch of course. More on that later...

Diabetes is a horrible disease. It is insidious and devastating in it's potential to reek havoc on the sufferer. It is a stealth disease that often lurks undetected and with no outward signs or ill feelings. It can, if left untreated, lead to stroke, heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, coma and vascular disease which often ends in foot or leg amputation  - a horrible affliction indeed. It has been known about for 3500 years and until 1923 it was literally a death sentence. This discovery could be the biggest break for diabetics since the invention of animal insulin.

This hormone, called betatrophin, was observed to cause laboratory mice to produce insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells at up to 30 times the normal rate. The beauty of it is these new beta cells only produce insulin when called for by the body, mimicking the pancreas' natural regulation of insulin with the potential for great reductions in the complications associated with diabetes. Such exciting news, right?

The catch is that politics and big business are so involved with the multi, muti-billion dollar diabetes maintenance industry that no one is just going to stand by while this, this discovery spoils that party.

To understand just how despicable and evil this is consider first the brief description offered earlier of the nature of this disease and then multiply that by millions. Today 25.8 million people in the United States have been diagnosed diabetic and nearly 350 million world wide suffer from this disease - and the numbers are increasing exponentially. These are epidemic proportions yet because it kills slowly it is the perfect disease to profit from. The blood testing supply business alone is a multi-billion dollar industry. Imagine if this new treatment reduces the need for testing to a fraction of what it is today.

In fact the history of manufactured insulin is fascinating and instructive. In 1921 Canadian scientist Fredrick Banting and grad student Charles Best labored many months on experiments that brought them closer to a solution to the treatment of diabetes than ever before. In December of that year Banting, Best and John Macleod had produced an extract from whole beef pancreas mixed with alcohol that successfully lowered the blood glucose levels in a dog whose pancreas had been removed.

It was James Collip who helped the team to purify its insulin extract. This purified version would prove successful in the first clinical trials conducted on human patients with diabetes at Toronto General Hospital. After publishing their results they set about mass producing their "insulin" but the encountered so many problems they were forced turn to the Eli Lilly Company. Banting and Best traveled to Indianapolis to work with company chemists to produce the revolutionary extract insulin.

 On Jan. 23, 1923, Banting, Collip and Best were awarded U.S. patents on insulin and the method used to make it. Later that same year, Banting and Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for the discovery of insulin. Now here's the key part of the story that contrasts with the extreme greed of today... Banting, Collip and Best all sold these patents to the University of Toronto for $1 each. Absorb that for a minute.

Animal derived insulin was cheap and readily available for decades. It saved countless lives and allowed diabetics not only to live but live well. Fast forward to 1970's when the first fully synthetic insulin was created by Ciba-Gieigy. It was in 1982 that Eli Lilly licensed Genentech's process for creating recombinant human insulin after it was proven effective in controlling diabetes. By then the "health insurance model" was well entrenched and the cost of the new synthetic insulin was exorbitant compared to the porcine variety.

This story is well told by my good friend who went on a failed quest to find the cheap animal derived insulin.

As the patents run out on synthetic insulin we expect as we do with all other drugs that generic manufacturers will soon be flooding the market and prices will fall. Fat chance. You see the game is rigged...

Synthetic insulin is known as a “biologic” drug and unlike for instance aspirin which is an assortment of chemicals that anyone can manufacture biologics are regulated differently. Therefore generic makers aren't allowed to "piggyback" on the original pharmacological trials. Since this would cost too much the generics pass on it. There is no reason that generics couldn't produce safe, cheap synthetic insulin it's just the FDA won't let them. Nice win for big pharma.

So here we are possibly on the cusp of the next big thing in diabetes treatment. So excuse me when I sigh after reading that big pharma is all over the betatrophin story. Potentially diabetics may be able to reduce their need for insulin altogether and get by with one betatrophin injection a week or even one a month. Considering the potential for crumbling such a huge profit industry I envision these injections costing $400 -$1000 a pop or maybe more. Surely the government will intercede, right? Call me cynical, but I see the government stepping in not to help end the suffering of millions of people rather to stop the suffering of shareholders.

But I could be wrong...


Monday, May 13, 2013

The American Devolution?

There was a time in my youth when it was the simply unthinkable that America, the good 'ole US of A, would not exist as 50 united states forever. If anything was a constant in the life of a  teenager in the mid 1970's it was the absolute supremacy of the American way of life. Yeah, so, I was a bit naive, but try to tell me back in the day despite the turmoil of the post-hippie era you didn't think the same thing?

Today at the ripe old age of 51 I have never been so ill at ease about the future. It isn't any one thing - its everything. It isn't just me  - its everyone. Thinking people can read the signs, but even those not paying attention know something is wrong. From the moribund economy to the mass invasion from the south to the doom saying environmental cabal, not to mention recent generations of youth without the slightest grasp of history, American or otherwise. Reading the headlines and the winning legislative agendas across the land one would begin to think there is no actual "American" culture.

Honestly, it's a little frightening. Sometimes I feel compelled to plan for the apocalypse before its too late. I had always thought survivalists were slightly off their rockers, now they seem to be the only ones on the ball. The question is  - which apocalypse to plan for?

Having read the mood and the trajectory of the culture our authors, movie makers and TV producers dove right in to entertain us - or warn us??? Novels and films like the Book of Eli and The Road focused on the world after a cataclysmic war or a global catastrophe. We follow loners as they journey through a nasty post-apocalyptic scene. Currently they are several highly rated TV shows following the same theme in one fashion or another. Perhaps the most popular is The Walking Dead where survivors of a zombie apocalypse battle daily for simple existence against an unthinking horde of ravenous zombies as well as other desperate and dangerous fellow survivors. Falling Skies depicts the world after an alien invasion had decimated humanity leaving only rag tag  pockets of free men to able fight back. The now completed TV series called Fringe featured another invasion scenario of a sorts. This time the invaders where not from outer space, but rather from our own future. After evolving into unfeeling, uncaring creatures of pure logic and reason they (we) had moved back in time to reclaim the world before it succumbed to human caused pollution and devastation.

The draw, the fascination with each of these shows is seeing our fragile society collapsing into the unrecognizable. Still, there's more to it than that. The characters we bond with touch the basest part of humanity that exists in each of us - the will to survive. In those brief moments during each episode as we project ourselves at a subconscious level into the scene we feel more alive than ever. As each episode comes to an end we feel a momentary letdown as we realize we have returned to our ordinary but safe lives. True, most of us like it that way, but a part of us longs to feel that feeling again and again. Like it or not there's is a chance our society will someday collapse into the unrecognizable and it will not be exciting at all, it will be deadly.

The most likely scenario right now is not one of those but rather a societal collapse born of a financial meltdown. What would that look like when the power goes out and the trucks stop delivering to the supermarkets and gas stations? There are two other shows currently running that deal with the aftermath of a total breakdown of governmental order. The TV show Revolution, while ridiculous on many levels, does explore a post government United States and the reordering of regional societies. The show deals mostly with the extreme violence of personal vendettas, but around the edges it offers a glimpse of the rise of a new order. The other show running on cable TV's Sci-Fi channel called Continuum is infinitely more sophisticated and nuanced in every aspect. Here the world's governments have spent themselves into bankruptcy (prophetic anyone) and have been bailed out by big business. In this scenario multinationals are the ultimate authority, crafting society to their benefit. The checks and balances such as they are today are a thing of the past. For many life is grand, for the rest it's only scarcity and exploitation.

As we take stock of the world today with the economic stresses and the threat of terrorism's global reach we can't rule out that old standby war, yet the slow devolution of the cultural West and the disintegration of  so-called "free" societies is likely to spark our decent into disorder and chaos. How will it start? What will the first signs look like? Just look around...

We have an entire generation of young people pushed from an early age to go to college (not necessarily a bad thing) only to find themselves starting their adult lives under a mountain of debt and unable to afford the dream of buying a house or starting a family. They've played by the rules and when they come out the other end of the tunnel they're lucky just to find halfway decent job. This while the colleges and universities sit atop mountains of wealth in one form or another and still they squeeze the student, their parents or the taxpayer for more. One recent grad told me she knew how to be rich and successful in America - start a college. It wasn't always like this.

For those lucky enough to be working the squeezing didn't stop on graduation day. Less Americans have a job today than they did in the 1980's while nearly 60 million draw a government disability check. With the baby boom generation entering their retirement years and drawing their justly deserved benefits how long can the Federal government remain solvent?

Some will say those foolish enough to rely on the government benefits for retirement will get what they deserve. Most of us heeding this advice were sold a cruel joke by the promise of home ownership and a 401K package at work. We were told these things were the path to a happy retirement. But the squeeze continues. Home values plummet and our 401K's collapse before our eyes. What we have worked for all our lives disappears in a blink. This while the power brokers and well connected continue line their pockets.

Those enjoying good incomes - no doubt through their own hard work and perseverance - are forced to give it up through taxation because it's unfair that they should have so much while others have so little - this while millions of slackers draw a monthly check for doing nothing. This is called fairness and compassion.

Paradoxically the hand-wringing over the so-called welfare cheats bilking the system masks the real outrage - that being the corporate/special interest control of our government and our wealth. It is a vast and overwhelming paradigm that defies logic -  impossible to fully grasp, impossible to ever rectify.

If this sounds like a conspiracy theory it should, because it is. No, not a grand conspiracy with an all powerful puppet master pulling the strings, but a conglomeration of conspiracies designed to control all human activity while making a select few filthy rich. The problem is one day it will come crashing down on them and on us. There will be a triggering event - a black swan event - that will start the dominoes falling. It could be anything.

There is hope, is there not? I want to be an optimist, I really do. However, as I read the writing on the walls I find little room for positive feelings. My hope is maybe I'm not reading between the lines...

Can the U.S. continue following the same general trajectory we see now? Is it even possible? Will there be a painful correction or maybe a savior with the power to set things right? Yes, yes, yes and hopefully.

Obviously anything's possible. America could teeter on the edge for decades dodging that one cataclysm that would blow this house of cards down. Its likely, even highly probable there will be a massive financial correction that would make the mortgage crisis seem like a walk in the park and quite possibly the world would emerge better, stronger and more balanced.

After WWII all but one of the world's advance industrial societies for all intents and purposes was destroyed and still the world recovered. There was real political leadership and vision that helped remake a world that rumbled and stumbled its way into the 21st century. There is no evidence that any such leadership exists anymore, none whatsoever.

What will happen to the world if America and West collapse? I'm guessing it won't be like the grit, grime and violence depicted in the TV shows - it'll be far worse.

But I could be wrong.


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Hi There...

I am re-starting my blog after some months of contemplation. I'm not exactly sure what it will be just yet, probably rambling essays of some sort. I am going to avoid politics and current affairs for the sake of politics and current affairs, and instead focus on the culture and unfortunately what I see as a devolution of humanity in general and America in particular. Of course it will be difficult to avoid politics and hot topics, but I don't intend to focus on any particular politician or any particular story as it were. Who knows...

See you around,

Friday, May 03, 2013

R.I.P. Static Noise Journal

So Long Static Noise Journal...

As of today Static Noise Journal will cease to exist. Not that anyone will actually miss it, but I am putting it to bed because I have nothing offer (if I ever did) anymore. I'd like to keep it for posterity and reference, so a new blog will appear in sequence. I thought there was some good writing and many valid points made by this blog.

Look for something new in this space soon. Thanks to any readers and commenters who have partaken in this blog over the years.

CW out